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Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 41: Smart Marketing with HubSpot’s Niti Shah

Welcome to Episode 41 of HubShots!

Interview: Smart Marketing with Niti Shah (@NitiFromBoston) – Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot Southeast Asia

Recorded: Friday 26 June and Tuesday 05 July 2016

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In this episode we interview Niti Shah (LinkedIn), Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot Southeast Asia and discuss her experiences, learnings and advice from being part of a larger marketing team through to setting up HubSpot’s Singapore office.

There’s tons of useful takeaways on all stages of the funnel (top, middle and bottom) as well as advice for understanding cultural differences, and her insights on running HubSpot’s Product Hunt campaign – one of the most successful lead generation campaigns ever.

Ian Jacob, Niti Shah, Craig Bailey recording episode 41 of HubShots

Full transcript of the interview:

Niti Shah: Sure, so I have been at HubSpot for three years now. I started in the headquarters office in Cambridge, when all the marketing team fit into one little room. And since then, we’ve expanded, and I have been along for the journey. So I helped the Sydney team get off the ground last year, and then I just moved to Singapore to do the same there and build the marketing out.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. Now, a lot has changed in three years. What has been the biggest thing that you’ve seen change? I know you’ve traveled pretty much across three continents.

Niti Shah: One of the biggest changes that I’ve noticed is that I don’t recognize every face anymore on the team. There’s always an influx of new people every time you go back to Cambridge or even when you come back to Sydney. It’s really exciting, because it shows how fast the team’s growing and how the company’s growing.

Craig Bailey: The growth has been massive here. We’ve just noticed in the last year. Because your office, you’ve changed… Suddenly, all these empty desks we saw a couple months ago are all filled. It has been massive, hasn’t it?

Niti Shah: Yeah. It was so quiet here last year, but it’s amazing that now we’re already starting to grow out of this space.

Ian Jacob: Have you seen a change in your role in the way that you’re focused, perhaps?

Niti Shah: Yeah. As we get more teams, people get more specialized. So I have noticed that it gives you the chance to get deeper into a skill instead of trying to always wear multiple hats. So there’s that pro. My role has been interesting, because I have been in startup mode with the new offices. So you’ll notice that they’re at the beginner HubSpot phase, where all the marketers are doing multiple things. And then in some of the more mature offices, they’re quite specialized.

Craig Bailey: Interesting. And so when you say you’ve become more specialized, are there particular areas that you have been particularly drawn to?

Niti Shah: Recently, I’ve been specializing quite a bit in organic search and top of the funnel, and that’s just reacting to where we are in the market. As I was talking to Ian before, I was saying that Singapore in terms of adoption for digital strategies is about two and a half years behind where the U.S. is with marketing. Not to say that they’re not on top of technology. In some ways, they’ve actually completely bypassed it by switching much faster to one-to-one apps. And they’re using more advanced technology, but then the marketing side of it is still a little bit behind. So we realized that the first thing we have to do was get found, “search and be found”. And so I needed to start really get honing in on the SEO strategy, yeah.

Ian Jacob: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Now, if people are starting off, like you had done, it looks like a few times, tell us some of the key things that people need to account for.

Niti Shah: I would say the biggest thing is what we call smarketing at HubSpot, and that’s sales and marketing alignment. If you just go off in marketing land and say, “I’m gonna do X, Y, Z,” even though it’s very valid and very important, the first thing in any new business is to talk to sales and make sure that their immediate problems are solved for before you start solving for the endgame.

Ian Jacob: Okay, that’s really interesting. Now, what if people don’t have a sales team?

Niti Shah: So, for example, for agencies, you really need to do the research first. Know your market. One thing we learned in Singapore that was a little late in the game was that the government offered so many types of grants to small to medium-sized businesses for improving their companies, so everything from grants to work with agencies, get consulting, a ton of grants for software. And not knowing that actually held us back a little bit, and now we’re making up for lost time. But that would’ve been a really good edge for us. When we’re entering a market, it would have helped close more deals if we had been able to leverage those tools that the government had out. So even though that doesn’t necessarily fall into, say, marketing, it’s something that you have to think about as an overall strategy first.

Craig Bailey: That’s a fantastic tip. And most marketers wouldn’t. They’d be just focused on, oh, what’s the next social channel, and you’re looking at, yeah, geographic and, yeah, governmental effective subtext. Can I come back to an earlier question? Talking about specializing and focus, you mentioned top of the funnel, and in the Grow with HubSpot event, that was really clearly defined, your marketing is broken up into top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, and you’ve got specialists across that. Now, is that something that you have to get to a particular size before you can really think about, or is it something you should be thinking about early?

Niti Shah: I think it’s early. As soon as you have even three people, you can specialize. That’s a lot of times how we break up our new teams. We’ll start with one or two people that do all of it. And then we’ll hire people who start specializing in each of those, because it helps to have someone with that experience bringing that into our team. So we just made a hire to really attack the bottom of the funnel, and we call that sales enablement. And so that person is really responsible for that smarketing piece that we were missing – talking to sales, making sure that we have the right materials for that, making sure that the government grants are well-defined and across so that reps can then leverage them, things like that that we weren’t specialized in or couldn’t have done without someone that we bring onto the team. I think even if it’s just a one-person team, you need to still think about your activities in top, middle, and bottom. But you don’t necessarily have to do it all. You need to pick what’s important first. And they’re all valid, but you need to prioritize. And I think that’s the biggest lesson for small teams.

Ian Jacob: That is really good. Now, can I ask you, how do the three people doing top, middle, bottom…do they interact every day? What’s the interaction like? Do you all kind of just do your own thing? And obviously, you all talk together. But how closely is that interaction?

Niti Shah: Well, let me tell you, it was just me in Singapore. So I’m a marketer talking to myself. And everyone else was based in Sydney or abroad somewhere else. You do end up still talking to everyone quite a bit, especially on the smaller teams. I will say that I noticed in Cambridge, people at the top of the funnel might not necessarily be talking to sales enablement very often. Their paths just don’t cross, because there’s so much being done at each stage that there’s not necessarily day-to-day communication. But people are pretty good about… The managers will stay in touch and make sure that everyone’s across projects that maybe affect both teams, for example, yeah.

Ian Jacob: All right, so in your experience, what things that you’ve done have been successful?

Niti Shah: One interesting thing that we did, we launched a tool on Product Hunt. So, sometimes, even at HubSpot, you get into this bad habit of just sticking to what you know. And it was the same old, “Hey, let’s run a campaign. Email, and we’ll do some social media, and we’ll do cold marketing, and we’ll do influencer outreach,” which is all great. But we were holding ourselves back. And so I fell into that trap, and my manager actually was like, “Niti, there’s a thing called Product Hunt. I know you use it. Why don’t we do something with it?” I said, “No. That’s not my job. I’m here to get more leads for ANZ.” And I pushed back quite a bit, but eventually, it was like, “Okay, let’s just do this.” So he decided… Basically, what I did is I researched the heck out of Product Hunt. And with any newer platform, there wasn’t actually much out there. So we had to go off of a couple inferences and say, “Okay, there’s not necessarily KPIs. I don’t exactly know what to expect, so I’m just gonna set a bunch of metrics, and maybe it’ll happen,” and hopefully, I understood it well enough.

So then, with Product Hunt, we had to pick the right tools. So a lot of times in marketing, you just kind of do the same playbook, and it’s not always a good fit. With Product Hunt, it was the right product, the right person launching it. We had Dharmesh Shah launch it. I knew that for him this would be pretty special, because it’s something that he built ages ago, and then now it’s been revamped. He’s also quite a big fan of more organic communities like Product Hunt. And then we just made sure to get everyone bought in on it across the company. And the day of just completely…even though it’s actually a one-minute thing, right? Dharmesh just posted something up. Spent about a month and a half planning it on top of every other campaign I was doing. And we got 100,000 visits in 3 days. We completely smashed the lead gen records. And it was really exciting, because here’s something that if we hadn’t done it, we would have probably not noticed. But this tool wasn’t getting as much traction, and then this was that big push that was needed to then get it started to get more regular traffic.

Craig Bailey: That’s fantastic. Can you talk a little bit more about, because there’s the setting up a strategy on Product Hunt, and then there was getting to vote on it? And how did you promote that side, getting support?

Niti Shah: So the thing with Product Hunt is that you can’t just lead someone to a link and then get them to upload it. They have to find it themselves. So if people were uploading it from the link I sent them that went straight to that Product Hunt, they would actually be discounted in the algorithm. So things like that that we had to kind of figure out ahead of time, what I did first is I reached out to our CTO, and when you’re reaching out to upper levels of management, it can be a little scary and tricky, but I was lucky enough that I’ve been there for a while now. And I felt comfortable being like, “Hey, do you wanna do this thing?” And with the planning, when you have a stakeholder like that, you need to be flexible. So I built in some extra time knowing that we might have to reschedule a couple of times.

The other people we had to buy in, we had to get buy-in from our campaigns team that controls all of our email channels, all of our customer communications. I reached out to all of my co-marketing partners that I had good relationships with. We got our channel consultants… Maybe they sent you an email, and they’re like… Yeah, so we got them reaching out to partners and anyone that we had goodwill with. We don’t ask for sharing that kind of stuff too often, so we thought, “Okay, there’s only so many times you can do this, and we’re going to use up one of our goodwill cards right now.” And so it was just getting almost everyone across the company that usually we wouldn’t have gotten done, gotten in on the same thing.

Biggest thing was actually working with the product team. We got them on board right away, and they cleared out the servers and made sure that they could integrate traffic. We put some CTAs up there that made sense for the day, like, “Liked us? Go to Product Hunt and give us a vote,” and they could then just take that extra step if they wanted. The product team was actually fixing bugs for 12 hours straight. They didn’t sleep. It was midnight in Sydney. They were in Dublin. We had Dharmesh over in Cambridge. And, yeah, everyone was just in on it, and that’s why it was such a success, yeah.

Ian Jacob: Okay, now, talking about success, we often get asked about ROI, return on investment. How has that evolved over time in your role, being a top-of-the-funnel specialist?

Niti Shah: Yeah, sure thing. It’s not always about the leads. And that’s something that I found out. At the top of the funnel, there’s nebulous things like brand awareness as well. And then that gets into the world of PR.

We realized that people in Singapore, and even ANZ, search differently. So I was measuring myself on “inbound marketing” and realized that people were searching for “digital marketing”, and so we need to change that. And then it was, “How many contributed content articles can we get up? How many co-marketing people can I meet up with?” I actually measured myself on how many coffees a week I had with complete strangers in marketing, because that is such a big part of Singapore and Asia, is that networking. And it came in very handy, because the day of our Grow with HubSpot event, one of our customers had to back out last minute, about two hours before. And I went through, basically, a Rolodex on my phone, which is like, okay… and I called up a couple people. One person just jetted out there, 40 minutes away, showed up. Reuben was one of our customers, and he just completely blew it away. But it’s a huge thing, and then they really remember that, and we do, too.

Craig Bailey: So when it comes to sales and marketing alignment, the smarketing piece, do you think culture in a company has an importance or is a factor on how well it’s adopted?

Niti Shah: Yeah, I think so, especially when you’re coming into a newer office. When we make our sales hires, they’re probably coming from more corporate backgrounds. There is this distance between the employee and their manager that can close off communication until they feel comfortable enough. So being cognizant that they are not coming from another place like HubSpot most likely and adapting to their style helps actually open things up a little bit. So I had to observe a lot. I couldn’t just go out there and be super American. It really helps when you’re not as brash, I guess, is the way I would put it. That can be off-putting if that’s not how you’ve been brought up or how you are culturally. There’s a little bit more in terms of gaining someone’s respect by following a couple customs, for example, even something as simple as handing someone your business card when you meet them. I now, actually even in Sydney, when I meet new people, I accidentally do a little bit of a bow. It’s just little things like that that are really appreciated. And when someone in the office notices that you’re adapting to them, and you’re not asking them to adapt to your culture, it just completely opens things up both ways.

Ian Jacob: All right, one pearl of wisdom have you learned in the last year? I know because your year just transcended to Sydney and Singapore.

Niti Shah: So many, yeah. One pearl of wisdom is prioritize everything. Before you just take on a project, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Is this going to be helping hit immediate results, or is it going to be long-term?” And then rank everything, because you only have so much time on a small team, and every minute matters of your time.

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HubShots Episode 41

2 Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 40: HubSpot’s CMO Kipp Bodnar on Work/Life Balance, Marketing Strategy and Tactical Involvement

Welcome to Episode 40 of HubShots!

Interview with Kipp Bodnar (@kippbodnar), CMO of HubSpot

Recorded: Friday 26 June 2016

Kipp Bodnar, the CMO of HubSpot, was out in Sydney recently as part of HubSpot’s Grow With HubSpot events.

We were lucky enough to get some time to chat with Kipp in the HubSpot Sydney office.

Together with Moby Siddique, host of the fantastic InboundBuzz podcast, we got to ask Kipp his thoughts on a range of personal, strategic and tactical topics.

We hope you enjoy it – please let us know in the comments!

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Listen to the interview on Soundcloud:

Ian Jacob, Kipp Bodnar, Craig Bailey recording HubShots episode 40
Full transcript of the interview:

Craig: Kipp, thanks for joining us on the HubShots Podcast today.

Kipp: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Craig: All right, so the first question we wanted to ask you, Kipp, is around career paths. So, most marketing managers are very busy. They have long days, long hours. Personal life often gets squeezed. So as a CMO of a large growing company, how do you balance work and personal life? And what advice would you give to marketing managers who are considering their career growth?

Kipp: Yeah, it’s a good question. So I have and eight-month-old son so I don’t have much choice but to absolutely have to find balance because I love him. And I wanna see him and spend great time with him.

You know, I think it depends on your personality, the best way to do that. I’m somebody who is fairly good at compartmentalising. So when I’m at work, I’m at work. And when I come home, when I’m with my son, you know, the phone goes away, the computer goes away. And I try to be really locked in and basically make the most efficient use of your time.

And a lot of work/life balance comes down to actual time management, and people just spending time on stuff that is… doesn’t meet the bar… the bar of importance. Like they’re just spending extra time on stuff because they think they need to versus that it’s actually important. You have to have the ability to say no to have a good balance in life. And so, there’s some things that I just won’t weigh in on or I will just say no to because I’m trying to stay very focused on what’s important to my team and to HubSpot. And so that’s kind of how I’ve approached it.

And that’s my advice to everybody is think about what makes up your life and makes up your time. And figure out where you can maybe push back a little bit to get a little bit more balance into it but it’s hard.

Moby: Hey Kipp, I often get asked as I’m sure Craig and Ian do, how do I stay on top of digital? Who are the thought leaders I should be following? I’m curious to know who is Kipp Bodnar following and why?

Kipp: Yeah, sure. So I’ll answer the first part of that question. So like how you stay on top of marketing trends, my advice to you is you kind of need a system. Like you need a way to quickly and easily capture a lot of knowledge and information. I read stuff all day, every day but I have my system. I have like a very specific list of email newsletters that I subscribe to. I have a very curated… I use Flipboard, you could use Pocket, whatever type of online reader you’re using, where I have curated all of the feeds and all of the streams to basically give me the best knowledge there.

I also read a lot of stuff on our inbound.org community where there’s a lot of discussions and you can often really valuable commentary around something that’s happening. So I really do those three things. So, when you think about specifically who to follow in the marketplace, you know, I read a lot of folks in the technology industry and in the venture capital industry like David Skok and Tomasz Tunguz and some of those folks.

But on the marketing side specifically, I think there’re a whole host of amazing folks from Seth Godin, to David Meerman Scott, to all the content we create at HubSpot. But what’s great is that there’s great content and leadership no matter where you are in the world or in the region. Like in Australia, I’ve met tons of awesome marketing experts since I’ve been here. And just even connecting with those folks on Twitter and connecting with all of you is a great way to actually do that and pull that off.

The other thing is to make sure you have a diversity of the continent you consume. Because sometimes when like sitting down and reading a book, even though there’s the depth to it, it allows you to think and process things in kind of a deeper way. As if you’re always just always reading quick-hit articles online, versus a book, versus white papers, versus videos. So you’re going to absorb information differently. So kind of have a variety in the content you’re thinking about.

Ian: How much time do you spend Kipp going and reading all of this content and educating yourself?

Kipp: I probably spend an hour to 90 minutes a day but like I’m a dork. You know when Facebook had F8, I read all through the new Facebook Live API. If you added documentation… like I think a marketer’s job is to know what’s possible. Right? Because once you know what’s possible technically, once you know what’s possible strategically, you can then like really start figuring out what you can do and how you can differentiate you and your company in the marketplace. And so for me, learning is just about figuring out what’s possible and what I can maybe do that somebody else isn’t doing yet because maybe they haven’t taken the time to learn about this stuff yet.

Ian: That’s fantastic. Now, this leads really well on. So marketing managers often get conflicting advice about how many channels to use. On one hand, there is the focus on these three key channels and on the other hand though, you should be testing across all channels and re-purposing content. What do you think is the balance here with that advice?

Kipp: Yeah. Just focus on your goals. Like what are you trying to achieve? There are a lot of people that I know that are in business situations and certain scales where like they can just run a blog and do a little bit of email marketing, and crush their numbers. And so think about the problem and understand what’s the kind of scale, what’s the kind of growth that I’m looking to achieve based on other people that I talk to, benchmarks in the industry. What can I expect from various channels for my business?

And then basically, okay, it seems like I need to do these 3 or maybe I need to do these 10, right? And from there, then you focus on those and work and iterate and improving on those. But there’s nothing that says you have to do anything. It’s what is your business need, what is the problem that is at hand and just focus on that.

Moby: Awesome. Kipp you’ve famously and successfully said in the past, context marketing respects the habits, goals, and devices of the people. Can you explain why this is important and how it ties into the practices of inbound marketing?

Kipp: Yeah. When you think about inbound marketing, it’s an approach that is centered around who you’re talking to, your audience, what they need, and driving real value for them. And one of the ways you drive value for people is respect them and understand how they want to receive things.

We like to think of it as, “Don’t make your prospect do crap work.” Right. Like don’t make them take an extra step. Don’t make them give you information that you’re not gonna use. Don’t make them do all of those things. Once you can remove those, not only have you reduced friction and you’re gonna achieve better marketing results, but you’ve actually created a much better experience for that prospect. They’re going to have a much better sentiment towards your company and your brand. And so, that’s really how I think about it.

The bottom line is when we have meetings it’s like, “Hey, we wanna do this, but this is really for us. This is not for the prospect. This is gonna make the prospect do crap work. We can’t do it, guys.” Like we talk about that all the time.

Craig: So Kipp, we wanted to ask about marketing attribution. Is this a practice that marketing directors and CMOs should be pushing more in the organization, in your opinion?

Kipp: So, you know, marketing attribution and attribution models, it’s a really complex topic. You’ve got first action attribution, you’ve got multi-touch attribution, you’ve got last action attribution. There’s a bunch of different attribution models that exist. We could do a podcast for our entire lives around attribution models if we wanted to.

I think what’s most important actually, and sadly it fails to happen often, is that you pick one model and you understand the pros and cons of that model. You communicate that model to your team and to your company. And so, even though that model may have some weaknesses, you are all aware of that. And you are all, what we would call “playing from the same sheet of music,” right? You’re singing the same song, you know what’s going on, and you’re measuring apples to apples in everything you do.

And then as you go through in your report if you’re using first action attribution, there’s some weaknesses that come with that, and there’s some challenges that come with that. And you need to kind of double click and double check data sometimes to make sure. But for the most part, that’s what’s important is actually just making a decision, not trying to do all of them. Or have one team using one type and another team using another type. Just be clear and consistent across the board.

Craig: So, as your marketing career takes off, you naturally focus on more strategic areas and less on tactical. As a CMO, we’re interested in how much, if any, tactical involvement you still take part in. And especially given your expertise and passion for social in the past, and your background?

Kipp: I’m a marketing nerd so I’m still heavily involved. You could make the judgment if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. But I’m heavily involved at probably…it’s been like five or six tactical related Slack messages or emails in the past like 12 hours. So I’m heavily involved from across the board in how we’re thinking about conversion rate optimization, to blog content, to search content strategy, whatever that may be.

Like I don’t know. It’s my passion in life. It’s what I think is interesting. So, whether my team likes it or not is a question you’d have to ask them. But I try to make sure that we’re focused on the right areas, especially tactically. And that we’re solving for the right things, and that we’re drawing inspiration tactically from other people who are doing interesting and potentially really cool stuff.

So, yeah, I think I probably am a little bit more tactical than your average CMO. But in my mind, that’s a good thing. I think it’s for everybody who’s listening to determine what the right balance is that works best for their company.

Moby: Okay. Kipp, it seems there’s always some sort of shiny object distracting marketers from strategy.

Kipp: Sure, sure.

Moby: Case in point, a very popular one at the moment, Snapchat and marketing. They’re trying to figure out how to make it work. There’s something that’s distracting them. What’s your advice for markets to avoid that distraction and focus on strategy on whether it’s the right fit for that strategy?

Kipp: You know, there’s some companies where Snapchat is an awesome fit. It’s a really rapidly growing platform. They and Facebook are doing the best jobs in terms of rolling out new features and innovating the platform. They’re doing a really, really amazing job and I think we should all, as just students of communication and marketing, appreciate that and take notice of that.

But I think if you’re a marketer and you’re just trying to prioritize, it comes back to like the idea of kind of first principal thinking. Like what is the problem at hand, what is the problem with my marketing following? If you have an awareness problem and you’re trying to get people to learn more about you then Snapchat might be a valid platform, right?

But, at the same time, if you’ve got a sales enablement challenge, or a lead to MQL conversion rate challenges, there’s a whole host of middle to the bottom funnel challenges. Then as awesome as Snapchat may be, it’s not what you need to focus on right this minute. Right? You need to solve the most urgent problem at hand. And anytime you’re working with the sales and marketing funnel, you get more leverage when you solve from the bottom up. Right? When you fix the leaks at the bottom and you work your way up to the top.

And so, it’s really easy to be distracted sometimes too because that stuff’s hard. Like getting more leads to become MQLs is hard. Sometimes you’re just like, “Oh, I wanna go and do the Snapchat thing”, because even though it’s hard, it’s hard in a different way and maybe a more interesting way to some people. Right? And distracts me from the stress of that current problem. And I think that’s what, you know, I’ve done personally in the past and I think you find it happens sometimes.

Moby: Okay. So, as the rise of ad blocking moves, more…

Kipp: Lots of ad blocking. Like 50% of Australia’s gonna be on ad block listing, dude.

Moby: Kipp, you know, I think it’s because… The reason why it’s high is I think people have figured out how to do it.

Kipp: There’s still a little bit of technical friction in doing it, absolutely. But, I don’t know, keep going.

Moby: And I’ve kind of learned more and more people are looking to native media and native marketing. And a great example of that is influence on marketing.

Kipp: True.

Moby: And now more recently, micro-influencer marketing. And it’s an area that’s grown so fast, marketers are struggling to figure out what to do in it as well. So what are your thoughts on influencer marketing and micro influencer marketing? And, do you have any suggestions for markets looking to employ those?

Kipp: Yeah, there’s a couple things. Your marketing is always better when you have fewer dependencies. So it’s always better if you can be the influencer instead of having to work through some other influencer. If you can build a great content strategy, you can build a great blog content on your site, become an influencer yourself, your marketing is going to better. It’s going to be more efficient but all that stuff takes time.

So in the meantime, you might have to work with and leverage other influential folks within the industry within the market. And when you’re thinking about doing that, most people approach this as like a bad sales rep would approach a problem. Which is like, “Hey Mr. or Ms. Influencer, I need you to do this thing for me,” which is not helpful to anybody. It’ more instead of… I’ve got some value to this influencer because I run an event and this person wants to speak in my event or some other…you know, one of another hundred things. Right?

And so how can we develop a true partnership where we can align our brands, we can align our audiences to work together to some common goals that help the both of us. And I think sadly, people are really good at identifying influencers. They’re really good at thinking what they want the influencers to do for them. They’re a little weak when it comes to getting that alignment and understanding what the influencer wants and how to create value for both themselves and that influencer.

Moby: Can’t take any shortcuts to that…

Kipp: No. It’s part of the challenge of influencer marketing and micro influencer marketing is that people are like, “Oh, great. I don’t have to do this stuff myself. I’m just gonna get these other people to do this for me.” And they think it can be a shortcut. Quite frankly it’s harder. It takes a longer time. You have dependencies on other people’s schedules, other people shifting priorities. It’s hard to do that.

Ian: …talking more about the future…

Kipp: I love the future. It’s gonna be awesome.

Ian: We’ve seen voice research change the way people that interact with content.

Kipp: Yeah.

Ian: How do you see this as unfolding and what can marketers do to take advantage of it?

Kipp: It’s a great question. You know, I think there’s a lot of things that happen in the market right now that I would call kind of precursor actions. Where the technology is there and visible, but it hasn’t evolved to the next step that really makes it open for marketers. So if you think about voice search for example, you know, when I think most people think of voice search… When I think of voice search personally, I have an Amazon Echo at home and I have Siri in my pocket and on my Apple Watch. And so I ask them questions and I dictate through them and I search through stuff, which is really cool.

But, there’s really no open APIs for that platform. There’s no ways for me to like incorporate that voice search on to my website, for example. And so if somebody comes to my website on their mobile device, they just can’t like click a quick mic button and do voice searches and input. Because there’s no real good back-end technology and stuff. Like the market hasn’t kind of caught up to that.

And you have to keep your eye on technology and as that evolves, new opportunity’s going to come up. I think the trend though, especially with voice search, is that whenever I ask Siri or Alexa or anybody a question, I get one answer back. I don’t get a list of answers back, right? And search is moving from this long-tail model to this kind of fat head, you know, first true answer discovery more similar to a Facebook news feed, or an Instagram news feed, or a Twitter feed, or something like that, right? And, you’re seeing that happen a lot now.

And so if you’re a marketer, you have to think about really doubling down on what we’ve always thought about, which is like being the best answer or what we’d often call the canonical answer, like the original source of truth on a topic. Because that’s how you’re going to be that one answer as that market evolves. And that’s something that you can focus and execute and do right now, right? But should pay off long term as we see trends in the industry move that way.

Ian: So, we get this question quite a bit. Is that inbound, so when we say inbound in Australia, people are like, “What is that?” Whereas we come to inbound in Boston, and we go to the U.S. and we say, “We do inbound marketing,” people go, “I’ve got what you’re saying.”

Kipp: Took us a decade to get there.

Ian: And I think we’re in that in Australia.

Kipp: Yeah, Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ian: We used to be like you are obviously… You’ve been to Singapore. You’ve come to Australia. You’ve seen this…

Kipp: What this part of the world look like…

Ian: Yeah. What does it look like?

Kipp: … when it comes to inbound marketing.

Ian: And how can we make the world a better place?

Kipp: Yeah. So, if you think about this market, right, especially like southeast Asia and Japan, and to some degree Australian and New Zealand, they’ve always been innovators in how you communicate. Mobile technology, messaging, all of these things. And so I think there’s one, there’s a lot of things that the rest of the world can learn from this part of the world.

When I think specifically about inbound marketing, and I’ve gotten the chance to talk with tons of marketing professionals from startups, to established brands and companies. And I think that adoption and understanding of inbound techniques is growing pretty rapidly: People here I think come from a channel based mindset. The idea of maybe thinking just solely about email or solely about social versus integrating those for an amplified result. And also approaching those in really a true inbound way where you’re really going to focus on value, not yourself, not your products.

And so I think that’s the shift in mindset that folks are going through right now. I see it happening probably a little faster on the startup side of things than I do the established company side. But I think this part of the world is probably, my estimate, somewhere between 12 to 18 months behind kind of the leading edge of adoption around inbound. But I think that everyone here’s gonna make up that time pretty quickly. You know, I’ll probably be back in Sydney in four to six months and I expect to see a lot of change even in that amount of time.

Moby: If HubSpot events are anything to go by, like the Grow With HubSpot Sydney, and the HUG. It used to like 200 people.

Moby: That grew and now grew into 600, probably so very much more. In a very quick time, the word’s getting out there.

Kipp: Yeah. One, it’s a culture that’s super engaged and wants to learn. It cares a lot about doing work better and doing really great marketing, which is fantastic. And two, you know, we’re trying our best to help and educate the market, and spread the word. From whether it’s our free inbound marketing certification, whether it’s our events, whatever to do that.

And fortunately, we started the business 10 years ago. We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the last 10 years. So when we’re in a newer market, like we are today here in Australia and across the broader Asia-Pacific region, we can learn from those mistakes. And we can actually help people learn at a much faster rate. So I would expect it to grow and go much faster than it did originally in the U.S.

Ian: Well Kipp, thank you so much for your time. We really do appreciate that you could spend time with us to share some of your knowledge and wisdom.

Kipp: It’s an honor to be here. Thanks so much. I’ll take any and all excuses to talk about marketing. It’s great.

Moby: Kipp, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it and we can’t wait to have you back in Sydney at Inbound 2016 in November.

Kipp: Yeah, I hope that lots of folks from Australia will join us at Inbound 2016 in November. Excited to see you there and I’m excited to talk with everybody again when I come back to Sydney.

HubShots Episode 40

Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 27: Inbound Sales with Sam Shoolman

Welcome to Episode 27 of HubShots!

Interview: Inbound Sales with Sam Shoolman (@samshoolman) – Sales Director at HubSpot Asia Pacific

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Wednesday 30 March 2016

In this episode we interview Sam Shoolman, Sales Director for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– one key thing successful marketing managers are particularly good at (from a sales manager’s perspective): the willingness to adapt
– research is showing conclusively that old school tactics (cold calling, trade shows, spamming email lists) don’t work well any more
– how company culture, if fixed on old school, will limit the benefits you get from embracing the inbound methodology
– the importance of logging activity and research into the CRM, and getting a habit going
– why HubSpot gets all of the sales people to get inbound certified and build a marketing site before they are allowed to start selling
– Brand New Certification just launched: Inbound Sales Certification: http://academy.hubspot.com/isc16/intro-to-inbound-sales
– prioritising the activities that need to be focussed on e.g. focusing on questions like: When I come to your site what do you want me to do?
– the best way to capture more leads at the top of the funnel
– white bread versus wheat bread leads
– gamification and the importance of reporting and dashboards for promoting positive activities
– the smarting virtuous cycle versus the old school vicious cycle
– the massive changes going on in the industry e.g. focussing on ecommerce industry
– evolving the culture to embrace change – the constant work in progress

BTW what speed do you listen to podcasts at? Let us know at https://twitter.com/HubShots/status/714947296547500032

Follow Sam on Twitter at @samshoolman

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Interview Transcript

Download the transcript: Interview with Sam Shoolman

Ian Jacob: Now, just tell us a little bit about yourself and what your role is here at HubSpot.

Sam Shoolman: Sure thing. So, I head up the direct sales team here in Sydney, which basically means I’m working with a bunch of our sales reps and our business development folks to help them spread the inbound love throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Craig Bailey: Fantastic. All right. So, I’m going to actually kick this off by asking what’s one thing that successful marketing managers are particularly good at? And yeah, I’m asking a salesperson about what marketing managers are good at.

Sam Shoolman: I’m sure some people would be probably wondering, “Why would this guy be qualified to know what successful marketing managers are particularly good at?” I think being on the sales side for a marketing platform like HubSpot, and I’ve been with the business for about five years, prior to that working with another software as a service company with marketers specifically, I’ve had the chance, the opportunity to speak with literally thousands of marketers at this stage. And some of them do really well and others struggle in certain areas.

So, it’s hard to generalize and lump together, you know, the good ones do this, and the poor marketing managers do that. But I think at a core level, willingness to adapt and change is super important. If I come into a conversation with a marketing manager, I’m not looking to sell this or that. I’m just looking to understand what’s their current situation? What are their goals and their challenges that they’re up against?

And the ones that are more open to sharing that tend to not just see more success with our own products, but in general they tend to evolve at a faster rate, and they’re really looking to improve their process, and put their own skill sets or lack thereof or lack of tool sets under the microscope and say, “Okay, where do we need to fix things.” So, I think that willingness to adapt and openness is super important.

Craig Bailey: Okay. So, in terms of willingness to adapt, what are some of the things they need to adapt to now? And I guess we’re looking at this whole sales and marketing alignment, isn’t it?

Sam Shoolman: Yes. No, absolutely. From all of our research from a lot of data that’s been done by countless marketing research companies, there are certain tactics that are just less effective these days – trade shows, cold calling, buying lists and email spamming them. That stuff is not effective as it used to be. And if someone’s got their head in the sand or says, “We’re going to keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them because that’s what we know,” you know what? You’re going to continue getting the same results you’ve always been getting.

Ian Jacob: Or even worse now.

Sam Shoolman: Yes, or even worse now, exactly. So, it really just depends if they’ve got those goals for increasing leads or automating communication to those leads, and that is something that they know is going to have a bottom line impact on the business. That’s an area that we’re really happy to help. But resistance to that type of change, which can be hard for some companies to adopt, just depending on their culture and who’s leading it and things like that.

Ian Jacob: Now, Sam, I was reading I think on a HubSpot blog somewhere or in some training, one of the things that it’s probably more so people in marketing, but I would also say in sales, is training and adapting themselves, it’s a big challenge, right? Because you’re trying to do the day to day work. You’re trying to get stuff over the line, you’re trying to do deals, talk to customers, talk to potential people that you’re prospecting.

But you’re also going to learn, “How do I use the CRM? How do I use Sidekick to make sure that I’m actually giving appropriate feedback, I’m putting all the information back in the CRM correctly, I’m communicating to the right people?” How much do you see of that as being probably more ongoing, but as time goes on, things get more complicated or get more sophisticated? So how are you dealing with that in your team as a sales organisation?

Sam Shoolman: Yeah. If something is new to somebody coming into the business, they need to get a habit going, right? And that’s going to happen typically by tasks and reminders that are popping up in the calendar or in CRM. And it’s something that we keep tabs on. Reporting is really effective.

So, if you don’t have a system that’s measuring things and sending out the results to everyone, whenever you’re in the public eye and you see your name next to a smaller bar and everyone else’s bar is a lot bigger, it doesn’t look like you’re pulling your weight. And if you know that you have been, but you just haven’t been logging your stuff, that’s I think going to be the prod that you need to be a little bit more effective with how you manage your pipeline and how much you log things.

You need a baseline, or everything that follows is not efficient. It’s not logged. You’re going to have trouble seeing where things are falling through the cracks. Do I need to focus on my assessment to demonstration rate? What do I need to change about my sales process that’s incredibly hard to improve as a salesperson? And I think as a marketer, if you don’t have a proper system of measurement and holding yourself accountable for actually getting the inputs logged.

Ian Jacob: Now, would you say it’s important that sales teams actually do inbound certification?

Sam Shoolman: Inbound marketing certification or inbound sales certification?

Ian Jacob: Either or both.

Sam Shoolman: Well, we don’t have an inbound sales certification yet. That would be a really good idea and probably something that’s on the roadmap. Inbound marketing certification, I think it depends what their industry is, and also how much is their marketing team currently adopting inbound marketing or planning to.

From a smarketing perspective, sales and marketing alignment, if your company relies on inbound marketing, or it’s planning to in the near future, the sales guys have to know what the core foundation of inbound marketing is. They should do the certification, or they should at least get some training sessions around it so that they can work effectively with the marketers because it’s not a one-way street.

Ian Jacob: I’m assuming all of your guys do inbound certification?

Sam Shoolman: Yeah. They do inbound certification before they go to Cambridge, where we’re headquartered, and they train for a month there. They’re already inbound certified before they get on the plane.

Sam Shoolman: They need to know HubSpot and inbound marketing in and out because that’s exactly what we’re talking about every day, but I think there’s value for salespeople across a wide range of industries.

Craig Bailey: You know what I think is interesting about that is because you say, “Well, they get training on the product because they have to sell it,” and we’re going, “Well, duh, of course.” But how many companies do you know, when they get the sales team in, they don’t even train them on the product they’re trying to sell and they’re just kind of, “There’s the phones, get firing boys.” That kind of thing, it’s just like…

Sam Shoolman: No, it’s a good point. Absolutely. For our project, and I would say for people that are listening, try and maybe liken this to your own product or service and how you could replicate something like this because it’s really effective. And our reps are hitting their targets. We achieved incredible success, over 100% last year and year over year growth. You can look it up. But it’s been astronomical.

And I think part of that is thanks to the training foundation that’s provided where someone that comes into HubSpot, and they’re going to be on our sales team, actually has to build a website on HubSpot and they need to build an awareness offer, a consideration offer, a decision offer.

They need to use this content optimisation system and map out where all this is living and how is it optimised, and build social media pages for it. They’re basically creating a business in the span of one month, and it’s expected to be fully inbound marketing best practice, and have working automation workflows and the whole works.

So whatever that means for your business, it’s going to be easier for some than others. I think for every software as a service company, it’s definitely something that’s achievable because they’ve got that product that they can give a demo account to, but for some others, that would take a bit of thinking and creativity, probably.

Craig Bailey: Fantastic. That’s great advice. I wanted to ask you, and it’s almost like a follow-on from previously, but what mistakes are you seeing marketing managers make that could be avoided?

Sam Shoolman: I don’t mean to be overly critical or harsh, I think marketing managers have a really tough job. They signed on for that. It’s not easy. And the good news is there’s a lot of support for it. So I think that, one, failing to plan is planning to fail, right? So I think a lot of the time, like we were talking about before, you might have a sales team that you say, “Okay, just hit the ground running. Get on the phone. Let’s see how it goes. And sell stuff.”

If you don’t plan there, if you don’t have training there, you’re in trouble. Same thing for marketing. So, they need to come in at a baseline understanding of what the organization is up to, and get trained by the rest of the marketing team on how do things work here. And really inventory, “Where is the budget going? Where is our focus?”

And I think once they do that, and they hopefully have some reports and analytics they can look into, prioritising, not just saying, “How do we get found by more people?” I think that’s the natural tendency by a lot of marketers, it’s how do we increase website traffic, how do we get more likes on social media, how do we get more followers? And a lot of the time, they’re already getting that exposure, but they’re not being as effective as they possible could be with the eyeballs that are already on their website.

When I come to your website, what do you want me to do? Where do you expect me to click? How do I become a lead? I don’t think marketers are always asking themselves those questions. And that’s a process that we help them through quite a bit. So we might say I’m landing on your site. You’re a manufacturing company and you’ve got a Contact Us button. I’m not qualified. I’m not ready to click Contact Us. That’s a very bottom of the funnel offer.

If someone knows that they need your business and they already trust your brand or something, they probably already know your company and they end on your website, maybe they’ll click it and you get one or two submissions there, but if they don’t have other conversion points like an e-book or a whitepaper download or a webinar, something like that where someone can very non-aggressively plug in their details, but it’s not super salesy, it’s not a big commitment, that’s the best way to capture some leads at the top of the funnel.

And it’s amazing how many marketers across the world, it’s not something that the U.S. has figured out. What I’m inspired by is how quickly Australia is adopting this, and really wants to get ahead of it and be a thought leader. So, that keeps me super excited doing what I’m doing every day and will help marketing managers one at a time here.

Ian Jacob: Now, I’ve got a question around reporting. We were talking about reporting, and everybody in the organisation using reporting and having their own dashboards, feeding off the same data. And Rosalee has mentioned, you know, make sure that sales also have a dashboard, but marketing would build that out. What happens in your team? Is it something that you can see what marketing is doing as well as sales performance? Or is it just purely sales-focused for you once you get the MQL?

Sam Shoolman: No. We have a smarketing meeting every month. We actually just had it today, a couple of hours ago. So, marketing is going to present what did our MQL achievement look like. Where are we on the SLA, the service level agreement. That we’ve basically said each rep needs this many marketing qualified leads per month.

And the rest is going to be what we call white bread leads, white bread versus wheat bread. The wheat bread are the MQLs, a bit heartier, a bit more qualified. And the white bread being maybe an e-book or a whitepaper download, something that’s not too far down the funnel yet.

But we look at their metrics, they look at ours, they know our achievement, they know how quickly we’re following up with leads. So, we have an SLA back to them on that. And it really feels like a partnership. It doesn’t feel like we’re banging our heads against the wall because we have different priorities. We’re very much aligned and on the same page, which is super important and enables us, I think, to work a bit closer together, and also with a level of transparency and honesty that is important, but frankly not prevalent in a lot of places.

Ian Jacob: Now, I do want to ask you something. And I saw this when I went to the office in Boston. There are these big screens on the wall with I can see people’s faces popping up there ever periodically. Now, I’m assuming, and you’ve touched on this before, it’s like you see your face popping up next to a graph that’s a bit low compared to everybody else’s and you want to take action.

Sam Shoolman: Sure.

Ian Jacob: Has that been a key driver since the start of HubSpot to really keep everybody on the same page, and I guess create transparency as well. Because a lot of times you can carry on and go along in a sales team, like you can say, “Go to visit that customer over there,” or, “I’m going to be going in to do this,” but no one ever knows what’s going on. Is this a way of creating transparency in the team and also so marketing can see what’s going on and see what sort of activities within the team?

Sam Shoolman: Yeah, I think marketing pays less attention to those boards as the sales team does themselves. It’s more of a gamification to make this fun and to spark team camaraderie. So, we’ll run some contests between teams around attainment of assessments, or how we’re tracking for the month or for the quarter. And it’s important. It sparks some teamwork and some unity. I wouldn’t say that since HubSpot started, it was the most prevalent thing. I think more measurement for sales reps, it was sent out just via dashboards in email that everyone was seeing.

But that’s a more recent thing in the past year and a half. And it’s been really positive. We’ve had good reception from people. And they do care about it, right? If there’s a contest on, you want to win. If it’s down to the individual, you want to be at the top of the leaderboard. So, just like watching stats on a football game or a rugby game or something like that, you’re kind of making everyone their own celebrity and the master of their own business and success and a bit of an entrepreneur. I think it’s incredibly empowering.

Craig Bailey: Okay. Just going back a bit to the sales and marketing alignment piece, so you said you had a monthly smarketing meeting, and it sounds like it’s working really well. Now, have you been exposed to HubSpot customers that are actually good at having that sales and marketing alignment?

And if so, what do you think it is about the companies where it is working that makes them different?

Sam Shoolman: Yeah. I think that first and foremost, like I said before, companies that are more adopting inbound marketing, and they have a high volume of leads and a sales team where there’s more than just one or two reps, they’re going to be more qualified for a smarketing kind of alignment.

If you’re an old school business or a really small business that’s got 1 guy on the sales team or 2 people, or you’ve got 10 reps but they’re not doing any inbound marketing, it just doesn’t…I don’t know how it would operate. I’ve never seen it. So, maybe there’s another type of smarketing alignment that can work from a trade show attendance perspective. That’s just not something I would have been as exposed to.

But we do have some customers that have adopted it really well, and it’s those that have tended to take off with HubSpot and just generate a ton of leads and high-quality ones, and iterate on what they’re doing to make sure that they’re continuously higher and higher caliber. And then the sales team really appreciates that, and they see marketing in a good light, and they work the leads harder, and then marketing is happy that sales is closing more business. It’s a good cycle, and they can start to align more.

And going along with that is not just the idea of generating the leads, but nurturing them over time. So if a company has really adopted automation and they’re using lead nurturing, that’s going to directly impact the rep. Because there might be a nurturing stream of 15 emails over a couple of months period, and then finally the lead actually requests whatever it is, a consultation or a demonstration or something like that, so we can’t really work without each other is the way it is.

Craig Bailey: Right. So, it’s almost like a virtuous cycle promotes the smarketing, whereas if you’ve got this vicious cycle, there’s not enough heads and you’re burning them, it’s almost like it’s a barrier that just grows…

Sam Shoolman: Totally. And what you’re doing today isn’t automatically going to work next week or next year. And our team locally knows that. Our team in Dublin knows that. Our team in Cambridge knows that. And back to my first point earlier, you have to be willing to adapt and to change and to look at the data on a really constant basis and say, “Why does this look lower than it did before?” We’re super paranoid about our growth. We’re not resting on success.

Ian Jacob: So tell me, in the last 12 months, how many things have you changed in your team?

Sam Shoolman: I can’t even count.

Ian Jacob: So you’ve obviously changed a few things based on the data that you have. Would I be right in saying that?

Sam Shoolman: Yeah, for sure. So, looking back, really 12 to 18 months, when we came here from Boston, we were 7 people. We’re now a team of 35. The sales team is nearly 20 at this stage. So, I think the way in which we’ve grown from a sales perspective, which obviously I’m a bit closer to, it’s been looking at where the market is responding the most.

So, we’re starting to look at a bit of industry specialisation. We’ve got one guy who’s focusing on ecommerce specifically. And the more knowledge that he can gain in that industry, and given the fact that we have solid interest in adoption with ecommerce companies, and really strong integrations with partners like Magento and Shopify and Bigcommerce, some of which actually have offices in Australia, that’s where we’ve pivoted and made changes. I never would have predicted that would happen now when we opened up shop here. I guess that’s one specific example.

But I think from a cultural perspective as well, I’m not just thinking about sales, but more team-wide, since sales is central to the organization and we’re a large percentage of what’s here in Australia, how do we need to evolve the culture when we pull in our first IT person, and our first office manager, and have a services team launching, and interfacing with marketing, and now a sales enablement person?

It’s a constant work in progress. We need to evolve ourselves internally in what we do, and how we interact with each other, and the meetings that are happening, and outside of work, how we get involved in one another’s lives. It’s important and it’s central.

HubShots Episode 27

Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 26: Smarketing with Varun Bhandakar

Welcome to Episode 26 of HubShots!

Interview: Smarketing with Varun Bhandakar (@vahroon) – Channel Consultant at HubSpot

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Tuesday 15 March 2016

In this episode we interview Varun Bhandakar, Channel Consultant at HubSpot for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– the value of re-assessing buyer personas
– useful tips for how to approach buyer personas
– the need to include non-fit personas
– the 30-second tent ?
– typical campaign durations
– smarketing, and the push for alignment with sales and marketing
– why we love Canva (follow them @canva)

Follow Varun on Twitter at @vahroon

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Interview Transcript

Ian Jacob: Now, Varun, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at HubSpot.

Varun Bhandarkar: Cool. My name is Varun Bhandarkar. I’m a channel consultant here at HubSpot. To break down the role, I work with our partners in agencies to help them do inbound marketing better for themselves and for their customers.

Craig Bailey: Great. Our audience is marketing managers. You’re dealing a lot with agencies and seeing success. The agencies are working with marketing managers. What are some of the characteristics of successful companies that you’re seeing through your work with agencies?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. I’d say something that makes a lot of companies really successful while working with agencies is realistic goal setting and expectations. I personally have asked a lot of agencies when they’re sitting down with their customers, and a customer says, “Hey, look, I want 100% increase in my website traffic,” I’ve kind of asked them to push back and say, “Where are you getting that number from?” Are they pulling it out of air? Is the goal realistic? I feel like a lot of agencies who do that really well are setting themselves up for success in the long term.

Craig Bailey: Great. Are you saying, like, building on that, a marketing manager if they have a focus on one goal, realistic expectations, but also what ROI means, it comes down to actually what is return? Would that be true?

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think that kind of creates a good segue to something that we were talking earlier about – smarketing. I’ve been pushing that regardless of if it’s an agency or if it’s an organization. I’m always telling them to have a smarketing-based approach. Now, smarketing, as you guys probably know, is the alignment between sales and marketing. A lot of times traditional organizations they complain that they don’t get enough lead from sales, and then marketing’s like, “We’re doing enough. We’re sending you out with this, and you’re not really closing it.” That’s because there’s lack of alignment.

It’s the start of the year 2016. Sit along with your sales team. This is my advice to a lot of marketing managers. Sit with your sales team. Sit with your sales director. Find out what they’re looking from you. See if it’s realistic. Come up with a good plan as to how you can actually execute it. That way there’s harmony, and you guys can at the end of the week not worry about missing targets, but rather than that sit down and have a beer together.

Craig Bailey: Excellent insight.

Ian Jacob: Now, understanding that, what are some of the strategies you see agencies helping marketing managers implement or do that’s working really well?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. Something that I’ve found happening more often lately is a lot of agencies are going back to their marketing managers and asking them to reassess their buyer persona. I know this sounds like a very rudimentary answer, but that’s the basis for success. If you don’t have a proper idea of who you’re trying to market to or who will be buying your services or product at the end of the day, you’re kind of yelling out in the woods, and the audience is sitting behind you.

Craig Bailey: That’s an excellent point, because we’ve seen stats that show that buyer personas, everyone knows the concept, but less than the majority, a minority, actually build them. Do you have any tips on how they can build buyer personas or review those?

Varun Bhandarkar: Yeah, absolutely. Look, if you have services or a product to market, don’t think of yourself as an organization with something to sell. Think of yourself as someone in the audience or someone in the market who has a need, and think of how what you’re trying to sell or the service that you’re selling is going to solve for them. I think when you kind of put yourself in someone else’s shoes, the answers to your buyer personas come instantly. I think a lot of people over complicate the buyer persona question by saying, “Okay, we’ve got something. Who would it solve for?” No, think of who someone is and what problem they have that you can eliminate using your service or product.

Ian Jacob: I think that’s great, because that will lead people to really go, if they need to solve this problem, “What service or product can I provide to solve that problem?” I think it’s approaching from a totally different angle. Now, another thing I had to ask you was, and I didn’t realize this when I started, but you also have the non-buyer persona in your system.

Craig Bailey: Or the non-fit buyer persona.

Ian Jacob: That’s right.

Varun Bhandarkar: The negative persona

Ian Jacob: The negative persona, right? Now, when we obviously start inbounding, you talk a lot about the persona that you’re marketing to. But as you get down the track, you go, “Hang on, okay, well, what about the non-persona that might end up jumping into the funnel? What do I do with them?” Again, like if I think back, I think having the non-persona is also very important. Now, have you discovered that with people that you’re working with, like having the non-buyer persona in the system?

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think in some instances a lot of organizations think of it from the start saying this is who it’s a good fit for and this is who it’s not, but in most instances, you find out who the negative fit is or the bad fit is as you go along. Sometimes you can jump into business with them. Six months down the line, they’re like, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?”

I think it’s quite crucial for a lot of businesses to realize that, and if needed, turn business away. If you can’t service someone to the best of your ability, you’re actually causing detriment in the long term. I know there’s an old saying saying, “If you don’t know how to do something, say yes and learn how to do it later.” But if you think about it as a smaller agency or as a smaller organization, do you actually have time to do that? You’re going to have someone who is going to be on your case saying, “Hey, what’s happening? My number’s under. You promised me this. You promised me that,” and then it’s just going to be a very negative relationship, and it’s just going to leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

Ian Jacob: That’s really interesting, because I could take that and say, “Well, look, we’re all starting somewhere, right?” If I was a marketing manager, and I’m just learning inbound, or I’m just doing inbound certification, and I’m about to implement this campaign, I could be in that same position, right? We all have to learn. I guess you’re probably in a good position, because you’re also new to the organization. But I think it’s about how you view it.

Now, what do you think when it comes to that and moving people on their journey, especially like in business? Because you work with people like agencies to help other businesses that are just getting this. How do you effectively grow that person, keep them on track, keep them motivated, and keep that happening?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. It kind of breaks it out into two different scenarios, right? Sometimes when you open up your service, and you get in a lot of leads, it’s very exciting to see the number of leads coming in. As they move down the marketing funnel, they’ll obviously trickle down, the numbers will dwindle, but a lot of non-fits or bad fits will still fall through, because they’re still interested in your content. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the best fit for them.

I was actually having a conversation with one of our partners who focuses on financial services this morning. They’re getting a lot of inquiries from customers in manufacturing. They have moved from a lead to a marketing qualified lead, because they meet the criteria. He’s like, “How do we funnel them out?” I’m like, “This is completely left up to you guys. If you feel like there is something that you can provide them, do it. I think the best way to do this is by jumping on a call and seeing if they’re a good fit or not. They might not necessarily be in the industry or might not be in your ideal persona set, but they might have like maybe a mindset or maybe a need, like an immediate need, that you guys can solve for. Also, a lot of this will kind of be cross-collaboration between your online and offline efforts.”

Ian Jacob: That’s a really good answer.

Craig Bailey: Nice. Now, I’m just actually going to go back a bit to personas. Getting down to the nitty-gritty of preparing personas, are there any tools that you’d recommend?

Varun Bhandarkar: Without sounding like I’m making a sales pitch for HubSpot, we actually have a brilliant persona tool. Now, the reason why I say it’s brilliant is it provokes people to ask questions that you might not necessarily ask. You guys are probably aware we always encourage people when they think of buyer personas to go beyond demographic and into the psychographic information.

A lot of partners who sometimes are fairly new to this ask me, “Man, I don’t want to know what they’re doing on the weekends.” Well, actually you do. If someone is running a business for themselves, they’re thinking about their business nonstop. They’re thinking about, “How am I going to close this lead?” while they’re playing cricket with their children, or they’re out swimming.

If you can think of how you can answer that question for that person while he’s at the beach, then you’re going to hit the nail on the head, and you’re going to convert them into a customer. You have to think not only about them as a business but about them as a person. That’s how you can get your ideal buyer persona to become a customer, and they move from being a fictitious concept to something that is very real.

Craig Bailey: I love it. Is that the makemypersona.com? Is that the tool you’re referring to?

Varun Bhandarkar: Yes, absolutely, yup.

Ian Jacob: That’s a great place to start. People who are considering using HubSpot but aren’t use that tool. If you’ve got HubSpot, use the persona tool that’s inside of the system.

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think HubSpot, you kind of hit the nail on the head. We give so many resources for free, because we just want to elevate the level of marketing all around us. I think working collaboratively, everyone wins, right?

Craig Bailey: Absolutely.

Ian Jacob: You know what, I’ll mention the last bit of collaboration you guys did. I think it was with Canva providing some templates for different things, and I signed up to it a few days ago. But I thought it was a fantastic way to collaborate and get people interested in what you were doing but in a more practical manner.

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think HubSpot takes a lot of inspiration from Canva. I myself take a lot of inspiration from Guy Kawasaki. I think he’s a brilliant man. He’s got some brilliant insights into life as we know it rather than just marketing. The fact that Canva you have access to so many free templates and brilliant images that you can use, why not, right?

Ian Jacob: If I was a marketing manager starting out running my first campaign, what do you see on average is a good time period to run a campaign and measure those goals? I know you can run it indefinitely, but what’s a good initial time gap, so to speak, that you would run a campaign and review the results?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. I’m just going to flip this on you guys just a little bit, because you guys have been around for a while. You’ve done this. I wouldn’t say you guys are starting off in any capacity. How long are the campaigns that you run for initially? I mean like now. I wouldn’t say when you started off. How long are the campaigns you run for on an average?

Ian Jacob: Oh, look, I think, for us, probably three to six months, depending on what we’re doing.

Craig Bailey: I would say it depends on the channels that you start with. Let’s say you had a co-partnering thing with an established brand. That could work really quickly. You can also partner with industry sites. They might have an email list. That could work quickly. But I think the overall question that you’re getting at is around general inbound content-based growth…

Ian Jacob: That’s right, exactly.

Craig Bailey: I would say it can be longer in terms of building organic strength. Is that kind of what you’re saying?

Varun Bhandarkar: Yeah, I think that kind of answer. I think there’s no cookie-cutter approach. It’s very context-based. It’s very subjective to what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re a new company, you have no presence in the market at all, would you want to run a campaign for a month? Is that realistic? I don’t think so. You guys have been established, and you still say a successful campaign requires three to six months.

Varun Bhandarkar: Inbound is something that will get you wins over the long period. I’d say if you’re just getting started, if you’re looking at a top of the funnel offer, let it run for an average of three to six months and see how it goes. We can always reassess it. That’s the flexibility of running a campaign. If things change in two months, you get the results, well and good. We can close it in three months, and then we could focus on converting those leads that you’ve generated.

HubShots Episode 26

Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 25: Inbound Marketing Success with Mads Nielsen

Welcome to Episode 25 of HubShots!

Interview: Inbound Marketing with Mads Nielsen (LinkedIn) – HubSpot Principal Channel Account Manager

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Tuesday 15 March 2016

In this episode we interview Mads Nielsen, Channel Account Manager for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– making sure your customers are a good fit for your product/service
– what is inbound marketing
– the importance of having a good story to tell
– how starting the inbound conversations with sales (rather than marketing) can often be a big benefit to companies
– should Sales do Inbound certification
– the importance of everyone in the company being onboard with inbound
– why HubSpot isn’t a quick fix, it’s a long term strategy
– setting expectations for timeframes
– comparing platform costs with the effort required
– building a campaign is one of the first steps you should do when implementing HubSpot
– there’s still a window of opportunity for marketing managers to embrace inbound marketing
– wait for the pearl of wisdom at the end

Connect with Mads on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/madsn/en

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Interview Transcript

Ian Jacob: Now, Mads, tell us what you do at HubSpot in Asia Pacific?

Mads Nielsen: Oh, boy. What don’t I do?

Ian Jacob: We hear you’re a bit of a star.

Mads Nielsen: I am a star, I have to say. No, I’m what’s called a CAM, which is a Channel Account Manager. And I work with sales, with marketing agencies, that are our HubSpot partners.

Craig Bailey: Okay. So you’re dealing with agencies that are dealing with customers, say, marketing managers. So the listeners to the podcast, they might work with an agency. You’re the person that works with the agency. So what we’re interested at, in your experience working with agencies, what do you find that the marketing managers are doing well, or the agencies that are working well with marketing managers that are successful of doing? Are there any kind of general things that jump out at you?

Mads Nielsen: Well, it all comes down at the end to inbound marketing, right? So they need to be able to understand that concept. And I think the more old school they’re used to working, the more harder it is to get them to kind of move over to that path. And so the ones who are doing it well are the ones who are open to change. I think that’s the first thing that’s really important. We talk a lot about fit at HubSpot, whether they’re a good fit for our product, for our inbound marketing line. And that’s one of the first things we feel out for.

Craig Bailey: Excellent. So we’ve actually heard that as a consistent theme, which is always good, what we’re actually asking you, can you define inbound marketing as you understand it? Because quite often in Australia, and still in Asia Pac, people don’t have a clear idea of what inbound marketing is.

Ian Jacob: And not many people search for it.

Mads Nielsen: Yeah, that’s true. But what is inbound marketing? That’s a really good question. So in my world, I think inbound marketing is around putting good content out there that people want to read. And that will then drive visitors to your website, basically see your product, see what you have to say. I think it’s very much around not just telling them about all your fantastic products, but having a good story to tell.

Ian Jacob: That’s really good. Now, you deal with a lot of sales. I talk about this quite often is that we’re seeing this shift. Like you can bring great leads into a business, but if sales aren’t treating those leads with the respect that’s due, or they don’t understand what the outcome needs to be, there’s this massive misalignment.

And then some of the times sales will never even see who is in marketing, or even talk to anybody in marketing. And I think that’s something that HubSpot’s done pretty well, and that obviously the alignment there is very close. Having been in HubSpot for a while and being like a sales star in HubSpot, what are the steps you’ve taken to make that a success? And what have you seen that have been the key drivers for that success?

Mads Nielsen: I think part of that, it’s kind of like a two-fold thing. I think the one thing is around…you touched upon sales and marketing. There’s this marketing alignment, as we call it, which needs to be very much in part, but it very seldomly is.

So I think one of the biggest things that agencies can do to position themselves for better success is to go in there and not just talk to the marketing team and be that outsourced marketing team for them, but actually work with the sales department about what kind of leads are they looking for, and what qualifies as a good lead for them as well. And even though that kind of gets ticked off, sometimes you’ll still have some misalignment, but it’s all about tweaking and fine-tuning, at the end of the day.

Ian Jacob: Now, see, that’s a really interesting point you make. Across the board, how many people or, say, partners you deal with, actually have conversations with sales teams?

Mads Nielsen: About 20%.

Ian Jacob: Yes. So that’s what I thought. Because it’s really interesting. Because in our agency, we seem to have a lot of conversations with head of sales now first before we even get to marketing. And I’m seeing this shift because people that have huge sales teams, people don’t want to talk to them because they know they can get the information. Or they want to talk to the engineers that have the information. And so we’re seeing this massive shift in the market. And I guess sales directors are finding that they need to find other ways to get to their markets. So inbound is a great way to do that.

But I just find, I think, on our side, education’s becoming really big. They need to understand what they’re getting and how they can get it. But I think a lot of it is going to fall on maybe marketing managers, but also even agencies to educate some of these people.

Mads Nielsen: I have to agree. I think agencies who start with sales get more insight and in-depth knowledge into what is actually causing revenue at the end of the day to be generated. And so if you use the sales team to a more effective…marketers seem to think that they know a lot of things and they can push out a lot of good leads for the sales team. The sales teams sit back and go, “No, they don’t.” So it’s a bit of a give and take when it comes to that.

But I think that if you can nail the sales process in terms of what they’re looking for, you can actually really help them on your inbound path, on what kind of content to write about, and to specify more personas because that really helps the sales team at the end of the day. And what everyone’s looking for is revenue.

Craig Bailey: Okay. So let’s talk about that a little bit more. So our listeners are predominantly marketing managers, so they might not have been exposed to this whole idea of sales and marketing alignment. They might be thinking, “Marketing just gets the lead. We hand it over the fence to sales.” What are you seeing as successful companies doing? What would you say to marketing managers that have that opinion? Do you think that’s changing?

Mads Nielsen: I think it is changing. I think it’s taking a long time to change as well. I think there’s a lot of education that goes into this piece. Both marketing managers and sales needs to be able to understand what each other’s roles do to be able to kind of fine-tune that a little bit better.

But there is a big educational piece and a bit missing there in the block, especially in Australia as well. I see that there’s still very much a little traditional…I see a lot of sales blames marketing and marketing blames sales. There’s a lot of that going on. But I think that if you can meet in the midway around inbound, because you have content, you know what people have been doing, you can provide that better in-depth intel for the sales reps, it just becomes a better experience overall.

But also sales knows a lot, and know s a lot more than marketers might actually give them credit for. And it could be a good way to open the door and say, “Well, what kind of content shall we be focusing on?” and bring that into that alignment. That’s where we have this smarketing alignment in.

Ian Jacob: Now, Mads, we’ve been doing all our certifications again this year.

Mads Nielsen: Sounds good.

Ian Jacob: How important is it, do you think, to put sales through inbound training?

Mads Nielsen: I think they need to understand the concept of inbound training. So I think that they need to take at least a certification on inbound. I think every sales rep should do that. And when it comes into using HubSpot and things like that, no, that doesn’t really matter. But that initial inbound education, they need to understand to better provide feedback for marketing as well and as they go forward.

Ian Jacob: Yeah. And I think with that, obviously, they’re going to be using tools like the CRM, at the end of the day. So I think that is very key. And as that grows in the whole marketing mix, I think that’s going to be a really key thing to get people to be successful.

Mads Nielsen: I completely agree. On this fact, I think pretty much every agency working with their end users should go out and actually recommend a very, very fixed path on educating their sales team on inbound marketing. Because if they don’t understand what they’re being given, they’re not utilizing the whole platform. So it’s all about a give-and-take situation. But it is something that they need to do if a business is going to go in and actually actively position in by marketing as their strategy, going forward.

Ian Jacob: So this raises a really important question for me. We’ve got sales. We’ve got marketing, right?

Mads Nielsen: Yeah.

Ian Jacob: Now, what if the head of business is not on board with this or has no idea about inbound?

Mads Nielsen: Well, then there’s another educational piece that needs to be taken care of there. The agency needs to go in and actually teach every aspect of the business, all the way from the top to the bottom, I think, when it comes to within marketing and sales. And that includes the CMO, and it includes sometimes a brush-up to the CEO because he needs to understand what’s going on as a strategy from within the business. He needs to be, as a minimum, on board with the concept.

Craig Bailey: Right. So as a marketing manager listening to this, I guess the takeaway for them would be that if they’re having trouble kind of getting buy-in for HubSpot, they actually need to go back a step and talk about the approach first in doing marketing, understanding that.

Mads Nielsen: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Craig Bailey: So can I ask you then, because you’re on the sales side, you’re actually typically dealing with marketing managers at companies that are considering HubSpot as a tool. What are some of the common questions and problems that they’re coming to you with hoping that HubSpot will solve?

Mads Nielsen: Well, one is that their website is more of a holding page, or a brochure, or something like that. But the biggest thing is like, “How do I have to change that?” And sometimes they’re overwhelmed by some of the work that needs to be done.

HubSpot and inbound marketing is not a quick fix. It’s something that matures over time. And they need to be on board for the longer term. A lot of them that are looking for a quick fix steer away from HubSpot a little bit because they’re going, “That’s a long-term fix.” And it might be best for their company, but at the end of the day, they might not go ahead because they can’t see that immediate return of investment.

Craig Bailey: What’s long-term mean?

Mads Nielsen: Well, we generally tell people that it’s anywhere between six to nine months before you start seeing the ball really rolling and kicking back on its heel and things like that, once you’ve actually done a full inbound marketing implementation. But it might be as quick as a couple of months, depending on what target you’re going into, and how aggressive you are in terms of content that you’re publishing and things like that.

But it can also be several years, depending on exactly how much you invest into it. So when I say several years, it’s like if you just go out there and say, “A couple of blogs a month is enough, and I’m just going to tweak a little bit here and there,” you might not see any return on investment for a long period of time. It does take some significant investment of time. And that’s the biggest thing. It’s not the money and the platform costs, it’s around time.

Ian Jacob: It’s the effort, right?

Mads Nielsen: Yeah, that’s right.

Craig Bailey: Yeah, that’s really good. Good point.

Ian Jacob: So from a perspective of people that you are seeing across the board, how quickly and reasonably possible is it to build out a campaign? Or people, what should they be doing to build campaigns? Because I was talking to someone the other day, and it’s been almost a whole year and they have not build out a campaign.

Mads Nielsen: Well, that’s the first thing you do when you get into HubSpot is you build a campaign. You deep dive right into the deep end around building campaigns, building content, and really structuring that and publicizing it as soon as possible. Because you need to build up that momentum, which takes time. So that is the first thing.

And how easy it is, it’s pretty easy. We have a tool for it. We go into where we actually completely build out all the aspects that you need to remember when building out a campaign. It’s a very thorough tool when it comes to that kind of stuff. And plus the reporting is amazing. So you can actually see whether the efforts that you’re doing are paying off in terms of visitors and lead conversions and so on.

Ian Jacob: If you look at sales globally, let’s say, for example, what do you see is the big difference between your counterparts in America and you here in Asia Pacific? Because we have customers that might be based here, but are going into the U.S. market. So what sort of insight can you can give us or our audience as to what the differences are, if there is anything at all?

Mads Nielsen: Well, the US. is a lot further ahead than we are here in Australia. Because they’ve had it for a while, the concept is becoming more of a day-to-day conversation than what it is here in Australia. If you think of it from that point of view, if they’re going to go into a market like that, it’s going to be much more receptive to it because it’s already ready for it, where here, it’s an educational piece much more. It’s at that intermediate stage at this moment.

It’s getting a lot better than what it was, but we’ve been here a couple of years now. We’ve had clients that have been on us for four or five years. So it’s not something new to a lot of people. But the concept of implementing it, what it actually takes, is new, when you’re marketing here. However, for the U.S., you would see a much more receptive market because it’s been there longer.

Craig Bailey: That’s actually an opportunity for marketing managers in Australia then. We’re still behind in a sense, and so there’s actually opportunity before everyone’s on board to actually jump in now and get started.

Mads Nielsen: Oh, definitely. It’s something to remember as well that eventually, this will be the way people market. And it is something that we’re merging into. Traditional marketing is more or less dying off because people are blocking out all of the traditional ways of marketing and advertising. So it is something that is emerging. And the quicker you get on board, the more stronger you will be in the long run.

Ian Jacob: Now, what’s one pearl of wisdom you can give us?

Mads Nielsen: So that’s always tough because you learn so much every year. But I think…

Ian Jacob: Well, let’s say in the last 12 months.

Mads Nielsen: The last 12 months, okay. Well, I think one of the things that I found is you have to continue to set the bar a little bit higher every time you move yourself through. You progress. So for me, personally, it’s always been to get more requirements out of my agencies. And I think you guys will see the fun with that later on. But I think you should continue to move your bar for yourself. You need to continue to push yourself to improve. You can’t just sit and rely on what you knew because things change constantly.

HubShots Episode 25

Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 24: Improving Lead Quality with Brent Claremont

Welcome to Episode 24 of HubShots!

Interview: Lead Quality with Brent Claremont (@brentc27) – HubSpot Channel Consultant

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Wednesday 24 February

In this episode we interview Brent Claremont, Channel Consultant for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– the importance of having realistic expectations
– the benefits of setting SLAs with different departments, especially between marketing and sales
– having a shared understanding of what a good lead is
– the benefit of saying no to some prospects
– make sure you listen for the bell

Follow Brent on Twitter at @brentc27

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Interview Transcript

Brent Claremont: So my name is Brent Claremont. I’m the first channel consultant in APAC [SP] for HubSpot, a title I’m pretty proud of. Fundamentally, my role is to work with agencies who resell HubSpot and that also use HubSpot for themselves. What I love about HubSpot I suppose is nearly an unknown quantity at this stage in Australia. You either know it or you’ve never heard of it compared to the States, so it’s cutting edge of SaaS and loving every day of it.

Craig Bailey: Great, so you deal with agencies and you also deal with onboarding customers that are new to HubSpot. What kinds of challenges are you seeing those new to HubSpot facing, and what are the kinds of difficult solutions that successful companies are using?

Brent Claremont: That’s a good question Craig, there’s so many different ways to answer it. I think that on the agencies side the most successful marketing managers truly understand inbound, and that is a big point that I see a lot of success from. If you understand sections of it, you can do well but understanding the entire inbound marketing methodology is just…I’m almost learning from some of these marketing managers because they’ve had so much experience. Very similarly to when I help an agency onboard a client for the first time, expectation setting is the number one thing I push. If everybody’s on the same page, you manage expectations, results, and progress. It’s the easiest process.

Craig Bailey: Excellent. So you mentioned expectations. Give us an example of sometimes unrealistic expectations versus actually something that’s probably realistic in these days of marketing.

Brent Claremont: Another great question. I think that when it comes to expectations, a lot of people have a look at HubSpot and the agency they’re dealing with, and you see the big picture. You go, “I’ve seen all this amazing growth around ANZ, APAC, the States, even though that our market is somewhat three, four years behind the States. And you think big picture, and it’s really easy to get inspired and carried away. But I’m sort of the devil’s advocate, I suppose, with agencies and their clients and really getting an understanding of where they are right now in regards to traffic, visitors, conversions and how do you scale that? And one specific example comes to mind that I was doing with a client earlier this week. They say, “We want 100% increase in traffic.” And the agency said, “What’s your current traffic?” And like, “Oh, we think it’s…” As soon as I hear that phrase, “We think,” it’s yeah, got to take a big step back and really understand the analytics.

Ian Jacob: So it’s not a smart goal by any stretch of the imagination, is it?

Brent Claremont: Yeah, exactly.

Ian Jacob: Now Brent, what is one thing you’ve seen people doing really well with using HubSpot and inbound.

Brent Claremont: So things I’m seeing agencies and direct clients doing are I’d say two-fold. One is very much, again, the inbound marketing methodology. You understand that everything else falls into place. Getting a bit more granular, something I’ve seen over the past 10 months, the best performing marketing managers in agencies have excellent SLAs, so referring to Service Level Agreements with their clients. So we’re getting a little bit of expectation setting, but for example, getting more granular, would be about content requirements. So if we are gonna be posting blogs on your behalf, our SLA will be in 72 hours. If we don’t hear anything back from the client we’ll take that as you saying, “We can now process this,” saving time, giving real confidence to the agency to do so.

Ian Jacob: Yeah, that’s great. And so what’s one thing you would say that people can really improve on across the board? Something that’s standing out to you.

What I’ve seen people do well would definitely be, again, back on the SLA points, but defining what a good fit customer is, and as strange as it sounds, turning away customers who don’t fit that perfect mold which is very hard. It’s easier said than done.

Craig Bailey: Right, can I pick up on that point? So let’s say our listeners, say that a marketing manager is listening to this and they’re not yet on HubSpot, but they’re thinking, “Well, it’s something we’re considering.” What is actually a good fit? Do you have kind of a definition or a general concept of a great fit for HubSpot?

Brent Claremont: Yes, Craig, with that I’d say it really depends on what your industry is. Over my lifetime of working with…and again, I’m in my late 20 so I’ve only had around six-year experience mark. But in my previous role I worked with big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Eli Lilly. I’ve worked with education facilities like universities. So I’ve got a nice spread and it’s never a clear fit. It’s having a look at your current customer base and saying, “You know, this client has just been perfect from beginning to end. Why is that?”

So it’s actually about marketing managers and companies saying, “Okay, this is our perfect fit model for our client.” Again, it doesn’t have to be spot on because you don’t wanna be turning away too much business, but again, you’re setting yourself and the customer up for success. You only bring on a customer that you know that you can drive success for.

Craig Bailey: Do you have an example of a customer that may be wanted to onboard with HubSpot, but you actually thought, “Actually you’re not ready for it,” or, “You’re not a good fit?” Is there any specific characteristics that come to mind?

Brent Claremont: I suppose, yeah, there’s definitely a few. And again, one of the parts I love about sales with HubSpot is our salespeople will actually tell a partner that we don’t think this is a good deal. I’ve never seen that on the sales floor. Again, that’s just a personal experience. There’s some excellent companies out there, but how much confidence does that build when a salesperson is telling you, “Don’t sell at this stage.” It’s really refreshing. It really builds confidence, but at the end, we want to solve for the customer. And again, to your point, it’s very much expectations of, “Hey, we wanna try HubSpot for three months.” That’s a bit of a red flag for me when a try is a short term. This is a business decision. It’s a long-term decision. It’s a marathon not a sprint with inbound.

Ian Jacob: That’s really good Brent. Now, coming back to the experience you’ve had, and understanding people out there really want quick results, what’s one of the best things you’ve seen that people are doing that’s actually delivering results quickly and getting people going quickly?

Brent Claremont: I get asked this, I think, on a daily basis. And again, it’s coming out of the client but the quick win scheme, I think, the market, what Ian said, the first thing we go to is paid ads are gonna get us a quick win in regards to visits. I agree that a lot of people make no mistake are thinking that paid advertising or paid campaigns don’t have a place in the inbound methodology. It definitely does. We have a tool that promotes you to book paid advertising with LinkedIn and Google AdWords later down the track this year, fingers crossed.

The biggest thing people lean into is, “That’s gonna be my quick win,” but the quality of leads that are coming through ultimately impacts that. So it’s a really tough question I think. I’d have to get more context on exactly the client, exactly [inaudible 00:07:45].

Ian Jacob: But I think that goes back to what you were saying before. It’s about setting the right expectation with people.

Brent Claremont: Spot on. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Craig Bailey: Okay, have you had any experience with US campaigns where you’ve seen the client take…they’re a multi-national. They’ve had a US campaign and then they’ve tried it in Australia and it’s been…just hasn’t worked as effectively. Do you see any of those kinds of things in your job?

Brent Claremont: No, I definitely do. And again, I predominantly work with APAC and ANZ. More so ANZ these days as we just opened up our Singapore office. I love seeing what’s happening in the States. I constantly connect with colleagues over in the States to get a feel of it as an example of just people knowing about HubSpot and inbound. For example, I have a partner I work with who ranks one for inbound marketing Australia. He ranks one. That is not yielding a lot of traffic right now purely for the insight that you know, I didn’t know about HubSpot when I got approached.

So much to that point of, I was in Boston about 10 months ago for training. And I was wearing a HubSpot shirt as you know, I was loving HubSpot and training there. And somebody stopped me in an elevator and said, “Oh, do you work for HubSpot? Oh, I’d love to learn about it.” A random person I’d never even seen was just in my hotel, whereas I struggle to explain inbound or HubSpot to friends and family here. So there’s so many use cases of the States simply utilizing inbound, whereas here it’s not a good fit. I wouldn’t say not a good fit, but there’s a lot more education we need to do. We need to be better here I think. Healthcare is a big example. There’s so much potential here, but different legal requirements from the US to here and the way it’s done. This is a bit of a hard point.

Ian Jacob: Now, that’s really interesting because we’re seeing a lot of…we’re delivering leads, we’re delivering quality to businesses, but then we have sales on the outside. And there’s a lot around sales enablement and how sales fits in with this. And they’ve coined a term: smarketing, right? I think this is becoming a really key area where we will battle in, in 2016, 2017 and into the future. And I see Brian is really focusing on it at HubSpot. What are you seeing at a specific with sales, sales enablement and where that’s going in 2016?

Brent Claremont: That’s a really great question. We actually have a meeting today, a marketing meeting for our lunch in the HubSpot office. By no means are we there yet at HubSpot, but sales and services and marketing, we all need to be on the same page. And when we do that, the ability to best serve the customer, it just changes. I think it’s gonna be a big part. By no means, it’s not going to be like flicking a light switch. It’s gonna be a long progress and like you have got everybody on the same page for it. The sales team, the marketing team, the service team all need to be on the same page. Easier said than done, though.

Ian Jacob: So I mean, hanging out with you guys at Inbound really made me realize that you guys probably already do that, and I could see the relationship between the teams. Now, I’m assuming that’s because there’s a lot of effort going into having lunches, having meetings, communicating with each other, sitting next to each other. Is that really the key to making streamline that process do you believe?

Brent Claremont: It definitely is. I’ve had a few different sales jobs, and they’ve been excellent at B2B publishers, digital mediums, but I’ve never been on a sales floor that has been so positive in my entire life. And the more that we’re connected and on the same page when a sales rep signs a partner for example, for myself, if we’re on an understanding what a good fit is for the partner, they’re gonna have such greater success because of our alignment…and to the point, if it helps the customer or the partner, that’s why we do it.

Craig Bailey: That’s great. Can I just pick up on that whole sales-marketing alignment. I was reading Mike Lieberman. He runs an agency in the States. One of my heroes actually. But he was talking about this idea that marketing has historically been providing the leads and then sales closes them. And so marketing’s function has all their KPIs have been around providing leads. But he’s now saying actually marketing is much more, there is that alignment, they’re working together with sales, and marketing is becoming more tasked with actually providing the sale as well, working with sales teams. I guess that’s a kind of a sales and marketing alignment. Do you think that’s correct first of all, or is it just kind of overreaching? And two, do you see that flowing into Australia this year, or are we still just behind where that kind of thinking is?

Brent Claremont: That’s a really, really good question. It’s something we speak about often here. It’s as soon as I talk about smarketing, sales marketing alignment, this Venn diagram appears in my head. So there are three fundamental departments we have at HubSpot, here Syd Spot as we like to call it. There’s services, which is myself, very post-sales. Then we have sales. Obviously, that’s self-explanatory. Then we have the marketing team. We’re all connected in this ever growing circle. So this is a great question for Ryan Bonnici who’ll be able to give you such clarity because he’s had a stellar year with the marketing team. We can hear the bell ringing right now on the sales floor.

Craig Bailey: Okay, what’s that bell mean?

Brent Claremont: That means that another client has been signed.

Craig Bailey: Fantastic.

Brent Claremont: So it’s very poignant actually hearing that noise because the quality of leads that we provide to sales have to be up to a certain standard. We don’t have somebody reaching out too thinking, “Oh, they could be a good fit.” The salesperson has all the tools available. Marketing gives them those tools.

Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 23: Sales Enablement with Rosalia Cefalu

Welcome to Episode 23 of HubShots!

Interview: Sales Enablement with Rosalia Cefalu (@RosaliaCef) – HubSpot Sales Enablement Marketing Manager

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Wednesday 24 February

In this episode we interview Rosalia Cefalu, Sales Enablement Marketing Manager for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– how marketers can get a better understanding of the sales process and what the sales team do
– the benefits of marketing working more closely with sales
– why everyone using the same platform is so important
– why the reporting add-on is designed for using with both sales and marketing together
– why marketing managers should be reporting on sales results so they can understand lead quality
– the differences between marketing and sales in Australia versus North America
– the ways Australia is ahead of the US in terms of selling, and where we can learn
– what the best marketing managers are good at
– being willing to challenge the status quo
– how advocacy programs are helping to significantly scale businesses

Follow Rosalia on Twitter at @RosaliaCef

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Interview Transcript

Rosalia Cefalu: My name’s Rosalia Cefalu and I work as a Sales Enablement Marketing Manager here at HubSpot. I’ve been here for the past three years and I’ve actually been stationed out of our Boston office, located in Cambridge specifically. I’m from Boston originally. And I took on a new challenge just about a week ago actually, when I touched down in Sydney and so I’m here at our Syd Spot office for the next five months where I’ll be working to enable our sales team through content, product training, and a little bit more about what we’ll probably end up talking about today.

Craig Bailey: Fantastic. All right. So you often help with challenges that sales and marketing people have in their roles. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the challenges that you’ve seen and how people are typically solving them?

Rosalia Cefalu: Yeah, absolutely. So some of the challenges that we see sales and marketing teams face come down to this very, very basic human challenge of not understanding each other. Sales and marketing people speak totally different languages a lot of the time and so much of it is just a preconceived notion that one group hasn’t made an effort to get over with the other one. So some of the challenges that we faced internally at HubSpot, and that we see our customers face, is that marketers don’t understand a lot about the sales process and don’t actually get involved in kind of that hand to hand combat, one on one, being on the phone through a sales process. So what we’ve done internally and what we suggest to a lot of our customers to do, and have seen success with, is actually shaking things up and having your marketing team sit with your sales team, sit interspersed with your sales team, have them sit on calls with the sales team.

One of the things that marketers can help a lot with is, obviously, we’re very good at content creation, we’re really good at positioning our product, so actually bringing those marketers onto sales calls to act as allies. What it does is two really, really big benefits. So the first is it improves the sales and marketing relationship by having the marketer give something to the sales person that’s not just a new lead. It’s actually progressing that person through the funnel, getting them closer to becoming a customer, but I think what we end up finding is that marketers come off those calls with kind of a, “Whoa, that’s what a sales call is really like?” These sales guys are really getting hammered with hard questions. They have a really tough job that they’re doing day in and day out. So it really helps improve that relationship and gives each team kind of a better idea of what the skill sets that they can leverage from the other are.

Craig Bailey: That’s fascinating. So I’m interested to know…okay, you work with sales and marketing teams within HubSpot and you’ve also worked with HubSpot customers and other people, like marketing managers who would be listening to our podcast. How have they responded or have you seen a success where you actually have said okay to marketing managers, you’ve actually got to go and sit with the sales team. Like, how many will actually, I guess, accept that and actually do it or how many push back?

Rosalia Cefalu: People don’t typically push back because they know they need to do it. I’ve definitely heard of a lot of teams who, like I said, come back with that shock value afterwards, but one of my favorite stories that I heard from a team who did implement this and they went and sat with the sales team was that they had so much better of an idea of what a sales person does and the sales people kind of had this pride about their job afterward, that then the marketers wanted to have that feeling kind of back for sales, so they put up this large television right there on the sales floor where they broadcast their HubSpot dashboard to kind of show sales, “You know, we’re sitting with you guys. We’re hearing what you’re doing every day. We’re hearing your challenges. Now you can see kind of what our goals are, what our waterfall looks like. This is what our day to day is.” And so, I thought that was a great example of kind of just jumping in headfirst, being a little afraid of it, but being able to really share each other’s story between the two teams.

Ian Jacob: Now that’s really interesting. Now if I think about…in the last year we had CRM come on. We’ve had products like Five Kick join us. And that’s really changed the way, I guess, sales teams can run with information that they’ve got. How much of that is going to be more and more important in 2016 and onwards?

Rosalia Cefalu: Yeah. I think it’s super important, especially when you’re adopting platforms like HubSpot that appeal to two different teams, sales, marketing. It’s really important to get as many people as possible within the company adopting that software. So I think that what we’ll see with some of the HubSpot products like CRM and the reporting…especially if you want to get your whole team on this product, each of your stakeholders have to understand the value of it, have to be in the product, have to be using it.

So one good example of what we’ve seen a lot of customers see a lot of success with today is that when you have your sales team on the CRM, and you have your marketing team using the marketing product, and you have this reporting add-on kind of sitting in between them, and you have dashboards that appeal to all those different stakeholders, so marketers can check in on sales productivity. Salespeople can check-in on the leads that are being generated by marketing. Your CMO, your CEO, all these kind of C-level stakeholders can have their own dashboards and they’re able to see top line metrics. Individual teams, whether it’s your social team, your content team, they’re all in there at the same time viewing all of their metrics. So we’re seeing just better alignment in general among a whole company when they’re all using the same software. When everybody is able to see value from that software and able to work in it together, they end up working better together as people and it ends up making for stickier customers, of course, also when everybody is on the same platform.

Ian Jacob: So this is really interesting because if we look at it from a perspective of…we often report back to businesses that we help, right? And you just mentioned like they always have these dashboards, but everybody across the organization has information available to them which they use on a daily basis. I think that changes everything. How many people like, or how many organizations have you seen actually doing that? Because I know reporting add-on’s being talked about. Like, are people using it or are we getting to that stage where people really understand the power of it? And what can we do to help make that better?

Rosalia Cefalu: Yeah, absolutely. So when we’ve encouraged this type of behavior before with other platforms that are kind of built for one individual team, it’s much harder to see that adoption. It’s much harder to see all those teams get in, look at each other’s metrics and really be using it. With the reporting add-on, we’re seeing amazing traction because it was built for multiple teams, because it was built with both sales and marketing together. And one of the ways that we can kind of encourage and see more traction with it, I think, is really putting it in the hands of the marketer to get inside of the head of the salesperson, to get inside of the head of each of their individual teams.

And this stuff really falls on the marketing managers to understand what are those metrics that they want to see, what are those challenges that they want to overcome, were there opportunities for more transparency within the company, and then having those managers actually create those dashboards, create those reports. I wouldn’t necessarily put it in the hands of my sales team, like, “Hey guys, here’s all the reporting add-on, here’s all this data, go build what you want to see.” They don’t necessarily know what the finished product that they want to see is. But if you can understand from them that they want more visibility into what are the high quality leads you’re generating this month, or what are the offers that you’re focusing on this month, that it’s really on the marketers then to go create those dashboards and make it really usable for the whole company.

Craig Bailey: You know what though? I just need to take a step back because after this listening to you for a few minutes talk about this, I kind of feel like, “Oh yeah, that’s the norm. Yeah. That’s what everyone…” And then I just have to take, check myself again. Hang on. None of my clients do that.

Ian Jacob: No. That’s exactly why I mentioned that.

Craig Bailey: It’s so obvious and I was just like, “Actually, no one’s doing that.”

Ian Jacob: You know what I think will happen is it’ll drive more engagement on the platform of people actually willing to see stuff change. That’s what really stood out to me from this whole conversation is that it’s not something that I will get someone to do this and we’ll check back in a month, but here every day, people will see some sort of activity and you can drive a lot of action based out of it, I think. That’s really the key of that.

Rosalia Cefalu: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when we think about how do we get that sales team involved, like having even just the daily, weekly, monthly emails that go out to them that show them those metrics, sales people are living inside the CRM or they’re living inside their inbox all day. So actually putting it directly in front of them, it really increases the visibility of the work marketing’s doing which also works to improve that relationship.

And to your point that none of my clients are doing this today, when we think about inbound marketing, when you first kind of learn about the methodology and you understand like, “Okay, not having messages pushed out to me but me, actually, in the time when I’m making a buying decision or I’m doing research that your company comes up and is providing value and providing information,” yeah, of course, that makes so much sense. Of course, that’s what we should be doing. It’s almost so obvious that you can’t understand how people aren’t doing it, and so that’s why I think it’s really interesting in this region specifically to be seeing that traction kind of catch on and following in the footsteps of what we’ve seen a lot in the States. And I think that with things like the reporting add-on, it may take a little more time here, but I think we’re going to see a lot of that kind of cross-team adoption happen.

Ian Jacob: Fantastic. So we touched a bit on this, about different regions… you’ve obviously come from North America and you’ve come to Asia Pacific. Things are a bit different here. I think like for both of us we’ve got customers that primarily service the Australian or the Asian market, and now we’re going into the U.S. What sort of advice can you share with us that would help that transition into that new market space for them, being obviously an Australian business and then going to the U.S., for example?

Rosalia Cefalu: Really, really interesting question. So some of the differences I’ve seen and kind of what I would suggest to businesses here as they move overseas to a U.S. customer base or U.S. prospects…here in this region, things are very, very relationship-based. A lot of relationship-based selling, a lot of in-person selling, a lot of event selling, more so than we see in the U.S. I think the core of sales and the core of inbound sales really has to do with building trust and building those relationships and so, ironically, I would almost say that you guys are kind of ahead in that aspect. It’s in the U.S. that we’re kind of just starting to build out that playbook of what an inbound sales model looks like, and what being helpful beyond just creating content online looks like, so I would encourage that you guys actually don’t transition or change all that much when you start selling into the States. I think that that kind of relationship building is going to be really valuable and that our audience will be super perceptive to it out there.

At the same time, if there is one thing that seems it might be different from here, from hopping on a lot of sales calls back in the States, prospects can be very hard-hitting because they know they have the power today, and because of inbound marketing, because salespeople don’t hold all the power that they used to, us as buyers in the U.S., we’ll ignore all your emails. We don’t have to open them. We might not be so kind off the bat on the phone, whereas a lot of the calls I’ve listened to here, there are genuine, awesome conversations happening out of the gate. There’s not kind of that big sense of distrust as there is in the States, so I would make sure that while we are encouraging relationship selling, that you guys are going into sales and marketing with the facts, the content, even if the top of the funnel is not super fluffy. I think that in the States, definitely people want all the information. They want all the facts. Our sales engineering team out there in the States is obviously huge for that reason. We really have that source of truth, that back up, that technical resource on a lot of those calls. So yeah, I would definitely say keep up all of the relationship building and the trust that you’re building, but definitely go into all of those conversations with all of the facts.

Craig Bailey: That was really good. Okay. So just moving on, I just want to ask you, this is just kind of more of a general thing. You’ve actually highlighted a few of these things, but just a question. What is one thing that successful marketing managers are particularly good at do you think?

Rosalia Cefalu: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: And you can look at geographic changes as well, if it’s relevant, but yeah, is there something?

Rosalia Cefalu: Yeah. So I think one thing the best marketing managers are really good at is always questioning the status quo and questioning their playbook even if they’re seeing success. Not just going through steps one, two, and three, because steps one, two, and three have always worked. The reason being that your buyers, as they’ve changed, we see the reason why inbound marketing works at all is because buyer behavior has changed. Buyers’ behaviors will continue to change as their needs change, as the world around us changes. We see this happen with more and more people on smartphones and consuming more content through apps like Facebook and Twitter versus going to Google and searching for something, right. So as the technology that we use changes, as the world around us changes, buyers change too, and that doesn’t mean that because Playbook A has been successful for the past year, that it’s going to be successful in the next year. So really, that kind of healthy level of skepticism and the need to always be re-evaluating what you’re doing, reinventing your strategy regardless of how much success you’ve seen thus far.

Ian Jacob: What do you see as something that’s probably going to change in 2016?

Rosalia Cefalu: In 2016, something that we’re seeing more of with our customers and that we’re doing a little bit more specifically in this region is taking marketing outside of just the marketing team, and taking that kind of education out of just a sales person talking to a prospect and really using our existing customers as kind of a pseudo marketing team. So we’re seeing more and more people build out advocacy programs with their customers as a way to use the people who are using your product or your service every day as a way to promote, to do marketing for you, to advocate for you. When we look at something like even just Yelp for restaurants, right? So much of the time, when I decide where I’m going to go eat, it’s not because of the cool website that the restaurant had or because of an article that the restaurant wrote. A lot of that has to do with somebody who ate there saying, “Yeah, you know what, this place has a great dinner menu and I highly recommend it to everyone.” So I think we’ll see more and more of that in 2016, especially with how important relationship-based selling is here. I think that more buyers want to hear from other people that have actually used the software or used the service, somebody that they can actually trust and really looks like them.

HubShots Episode 23

1 Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 22: Thinking Outside the Box with James Gilbert

Welcome to Episode 22 of HubShots!

Interview: Thinking Outside the Box with James Gilbert (@jatgilbert) – HubSpot Demand Gen Marketing Manager Asia Pacific

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Wednesday 24 February

In this episode we interview James Gilbert, Demand Generation Marketing Manager for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

– Marketing on community sites (Medium, Product Hunt, LinkedIn Pulse, Reddit)
– owned, earned, paid media
– short term versus long term traffic channels
– the value of being an authority figure in your industry
– how building owned media can help you increase your pricing
– the benefits of owned media protection
– building a moat with owned media: http://www.inc.com/laura-montini/how-the-value-of-marketing-appreciates.html
– distributing your content on other platforms such as Medium and LinkedIn Pulse
– feedback loop between marketing and sales – SLAs
– goal: leads that close
– constantly kicking off new campaigns
– tip for LinkedIn sponsored content

Follow James on Twitter at @jatgilbert

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Interview Transcript

James Gilbert: Okay. So I work at HubSpot. I’m based in the Sydney office, and I look after demand gen for the APAC region. So that essentially means I need to make sure we’ve got enough leads and marketing-qualified leads for our sales team.

Ian Jacob: Wow. Is it just yourself or do you work a part of a larger team?

James Gilbert: So I’m part of a larger team. So we have a marketing team in APAC and we’re slowly building it out in regions too, so we’ve just hired someone in Japan, someone in Southeast Asia, and then there’s a few people based essentially here in Sydney.

Craig Bailey: So what we’re interested in talking with you today about is tips and kind of like strategies for marketing managers. And I guess this is kind of almost what you do in a way.

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: And so it’s really good to touch about some of the things that you’re doing to drive leads for the business. So what have you seen working especially in the last year or so in terms of marketing and driving leads?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so really interesting trend we’ve noticed and have started experimenting with is actually marketing on community sites. So if you think like medium as a publishing platform, we started doing a lot of efforts around that. We recently did a campaign where we launched one of our tools that has existed for a while, Website Grader, we put it on Product Hunt, and that was very, very successful in driving, I think, more visits than it’s ever had, and it’s been around for quite a while. So we’re noticing those third-party platform popping up as a great distribution mechanisms.

Ian Jacob:I was just going to ask you, was this purely an APAC thing in terms of the Product Hunt thing or is that something that was driven out of Boston?

James Gilbert: So that was driven out of APAC. It affects the company globally because it naturally like has a global audience but that was an initiative we undertook and we promoted the tool on Product Hunt. I think it’s the 28th highest up-voted product of all time on Product Hunt, and generated lots and lots of visitors and leads for the business, so it was very successful.

Interviewer: That’s fantastic. So when you talk about leads, now we know we can obviously segment people down, or segment these leads down. Were they mainly to do for the web platform or was it actually to do for inbound or the HubSpot platform? What was the goal essentially?

James Gilbert: Okay. So with this particular tool, so with Website Grader, you enter your details and you kind of grade your website and then you send the results there. So that’s what people’s intention was when they came to Website Grader, but the great thing for us as a company is then we’ve got their data and we can continue to send them information around different things they might be interested in, and hopefully bring them to down the funnel.

Craig Bailey: So that’s really interesting. You’ve actually then talked about using other web properties as kind of a referral traffic. It kind of raises the question in terms of, I guess, the different channels you use. And I know one of the things that you’re very mindful of is this breakdown of earned media, versus paid media, versus owned media. How would you kind of frame that for a marketing manager in terms of how they consider each of those channels? And maybe what’s the definition of those channels as the best point?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so when we think about owned, it’s kind of all the assets that we create. So it’ll be like our ebooks and our blog posts and then even tools like Website Grader, and how that helps us attract visitors. And then, obviously, paid is just all your advertisements that you do, and sometimes, depending on your business, you actually might need some owned assets to really promote by those paid channels. And sometimes if you’re a company that more just sells products, you can probably advertise just around those actual products, and that’s essentially how you bring people in. And then earned is really the distribution that you get from your owned assets that’s from other websites. So other people finding out about your content and linking to you, and if they’ve got a particular blog that maybe generates a lot of traffic, you’d call that earned media because of the strength of your owned asset.

Craig Bailey: Right. So reaching out to them for them to recommend you or endorse you, and let them drive traffic.

James Gilbert: Yeah, or like I’ve heard quite a few stories where people, on communities, like Reddit and things like that, have picked up a story, and then that has kind of gone on to other websites maybe like Hacker News or something, and that’s resulted in a lot of referral traffic, and that’s a great example of earned media.

Craig Bailey: Right. And so what would you say to marketing managers that, I guess, are putting more priority on paid then as a channel over others? Do you see issues with that?

James Gilbert: Yeah, I see a few issues. I mean, it can work for certain if your economics makes sense. I mean, we do paid as well. But part of the thinking is that it’s a bit of a short-term solution, and it also doesn’t give you a lot of things that you might get if you pursued more kind of an owned inbound strategy. But if you pursue the owned inbound strategy, I imagine it does take longer to start showing benefits. But then when it does, not only are you getting that benefit over a longer time horizon, and so the net costs of any traffic you’ll be getting will be continually decreasing. But it’s also raising you as an authority figure. The fact that you’re getting that traffic is clearly indicating that people are interested in what you have to say, and the fact that the traffic is growing means that there’s valuable content. And I think that puts you in a really strong position as a business because it’s putting you as a thought leader, and then that has all sorts of benefits.

It means you get a lot more earned media just by the fact that people look to you as a reference point. It also means, from a business level, you can probably do things like price your product higher because you are seen as that kind of the elite standard within your industry. And I think that’s a really powerful thing that not a lot of businesses talk about . If you look at someone that developed a really strong inbound strategy over a medium time horizon versus someone that just went down the paid route, maybe the person at the paid route would get stronger results initially. But once you got 12, 24 months down the track, if that person was still pursuing a purely paid kind of media mix, they’ve got no protection from someone starting up and just pursuing the same path with the same budget, they’ll get the same results.

Whereas the person that went down, the kind of, the slower but probably more impactful content-driven approach, and in year two, someone has to pay a lot just to get to the same level, let alone anything beyond that company. So I think there’s a lot of benefits.

Craig Bailey: That’s an excellent point. And earlier when we were chatting, you mentioned this idea of building a moat between your own business with your earned media versus a competitor.

James Gilbert: Yeah, so I mean, in that example, if someone, if you had pursued the paid strategy for the last cycle of your business for someone to compete, all they need is the same budget and they’re able to do it, and they’re probably able to do it with equal authority to their audience. Whereas if someone pursued that kind of inbound strategy, they’re a thought leader, they’ve got huge economic advantages because you’re going to need a budget just to get to the same level as they are, and then any budget beyond that, they might be able to match. So I think from a pricing standpoint, it’s brilliant from making sure you compare to this, can’t compete with you that easily, it’s brilliant. It’s not only good for marketing. It’s really good for the business.

Craig Bailey: Fantastic insight.

Ian Jacob: Now, James, would you say that this is a saleable business asset? Have people invested in this? And is there a system in place?

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Ian Jacob: It’s a saleable business asset.

James Gilbert: I think it would have a huge impact on your valuation if you were selling the business. I mean, you just need to look at, like the fact that some media businesses get bought. And essentially, if you’ve developed a really strong inbound strategy, you are tapping a media business onto your core business. When you think about someone that has a purely paid strategy, I don’t see why they would get much of a valuation at all because all it takes to compete with them is budget and the same products, which is probably very easily sourced these days.

Craig Bailey: All right. So we want talk to you a little bit also just in terms of trends that are happening. You touched on this at the start. But are you seeing any trends change in terms of marketing that marketing managers should be aware of?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so there’s definitely been a trend for the last kind of 12 to 18 months where people were spending a lot more of their traditional AdWords budgets on, like paid social channels. Like I know Facebook is allowing people to do really interesting things, and a lot of people are seeing a lot of success there. And I think it also works better with…you do have that more kind of content strategy if you are going down a channel like Facebook. You can kind of use the power of quality content to make those ads cheaper in terms of their ranking algorithm. If your content is what is deemed to have a good quality score, the ads costs you less. So it’s a combination of those platforms getting to a real critical mass where you can pretty much advertise to anyone, and the content have been very appealing and driving down the costs of those ads that I think is seeing most platforms rise.

That’s probably the most noticeable one I’ve seen on the paid front. And then on the content front, like I said before, the emergence of these platforms like medium and a few other areas like that where they’re really becoming a huge distribution channel for the content, and now it’s not just enough to have the content on your own site. You really need to be getting it on platforms like that, or like LinkedIn, also something like that, to bring in a wider audience.

Ian Jacob: So, James, if someone had never tried any of these other platforms, how do you get started?

James Gilbert: Yes, so the great thing is they’re super easy and they’re also free. So with LinkedIn Pulse and Medium, you just simply setup an account and then you can start writing your content. I would definitely assess the landscape first, try to see what type of content has done well in those platforms in the past. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to look at like social interactions around particular themes and see what has really resonated with people, and try to know that the piece of content you’re creating will have distribution when you do it, and do that by looking at what’s been successful in the past.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. So now, moving on from that. You’re obviously providing marketing-qualified leads to sales. How much interaction do you have with sales and how does that shape a lot of what you do on a day-to-day basis?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so we interact all the time. I just was in a meeting with them about five minutes ago. So it’s a constant, and it’s a great… you want to have a constant feedback work between the two systems because it’s not enough for me to be generating leads. Our goal is to generate business and which requires that I’m generating the right leads. So I don’t want to be feeding the sales team leads that won’t close. I want to be generating them the absolute best quality leads that raise more volume so that we can hit our revenue targets which is ultimately what’s going to keep us in business. So I think it’s absolutely vital that you have clear lines of communication between the two groups, and a great way to do that is through having an agreement like a marketing service level agreement.

And I’m actually working on this at the moment which is us looking at the revenue targets the sales team has to hit, and then backtracking to determine how many marketing-qualified leads that would be, and then we’re going to make a commitment to them to hit that target every month.

Ian Jacob: Fantastic. That is really good. So, OK, so that’s great. Now, how do you track it all, and how often do you meet with them? Like, what are the specifics of this?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so we track it all in HubSpot, naturally. We use the tool ourselves and we just setup some reports there that can identify this for us. So we setup the goal and then we just track towards that goal during the month. And we meet…there’s formal meetings once a month, and then ad hoc meetings, I would say, like multiple ad hoc meetings weekly. And the dashboard, as to how we’re tracking, gets emailed to everyone every night so everyone knows if we’re tracking to the goal we need to. And we do that through a waterfall graph so you can see if we’re tracking at the right volume at the right time of the month.

Craig Bailey: So just in terms of how you time your campaigns, because you’re seeing that growth daily, how often do you actually creating campaigns? Because I could imagine that that Product Hunt campaign that you mentioned, that would have taken a fair bit of planning, and then you’re setting up how that’s going to be promoted and all that kind of things. So it’s not like you just dreamed that up today and you did it the next day.

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: There’s a bit of planning involved.

James Gilbert: Yeah.

Craig Bailey: How often are you actually kicking off new campaigns that are actually contributing to leads?

James Gilbert: Yeah, so we’re constantly kicking off new campaigns. We have quite a big marketing team now as a company. I think we’re at around 110 people, and we’re lucky in APAC that we can leverage things that are happening in North America, and just by the work we’ve done as a company over the last 10 years, we are getting north of three million visitors a month to our marketing URLs. So that generates a fantastic baseline of leads, and marketing-qualified leads. And what we can do is once we know our service level agreement and what number of MQLs our sales team require to hit our revenue goals, we can look at what kind of lead volume we can expect from those organic channels that we’ve been developing for so long, and then identify where a gap might be, and what type of campaign is best appropriate to kind of plug that gap.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. And our final question, can you share with us a pearl of wisdom that you have gained the last 6 to 12 months? Something that really stands out that can make a difference to somebody who’s listening.

James Gilbert: Okay. I’m going to betray my HubSpot roots a little bit and give a paid pearl of wisdom, although you need content too to make it work.

James Gilbert: But with LinkedIn sponsored updates, the way that algorithm works is you don’t want to just put up one piece of content. You want to put up four at the same time, and no more than four because it won’t have any impact on there. They will only show those four. And you can put up the same piece of content with different images, and over the weeks see which pieces performing best and then cancel the other three and only support that one piece of content, because what it’ll do is they’ll rank it in terms of how prevalent they want it to be in the newsfeed and how little what should cost you. And just by making sure you’re doing that, it can save you a lot of money on advertising with LinkedIn sponsored updates.
HubShots Episode 22

Interview with HubSpot Expert

Episode 21: Strategic Marketing with Ryan Bonnici

Welcome to Episode 21 of HubShots!

Interview: Remarkability with Ryan Bonnici (@ryanbonnici) – HubSpot Marketing Director Asia Pacific and Japan

Recorded: Friday 12 February 2016 and Wednesday 24 February 2016

This episode we have a fantastic interview with HubSpot marketing expert Ryan Bonnici.
Ryan Bonnici
Some of the key items covered in the interview:

– picking the right few channels to work on
– insight for marketing managers who are looking to grow into marketing director and CMO roles
– picking the right metrics to focus on
– reporting the right ROI metrics to motivate other departments
– product hunt success
– co-partnering success
– doing less webinars
– the importance of data and working backwards around what sales teams need
– fanatical about hiring
– being remarkable in some way

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Interview Transcript

Ryan Bonnici: I’m the Marketing Director across Asia Pacific – we have three sub-regions in Asia Pacific. We have Australia New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and very soon to be Japan.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. And how long have you been at HubSpot?

Ryan Bonnici: Just over a year now so it’s been an exciting 12, 13 months.

Craig Bailey: Excellent. All right so we’re going to ask you a few questions, and particularly in terms of marketing managers who are listening to this. We’re really interested in your perspectives across what’s happening in Australia and Asia-Pac, so let’s start with a few questions just around things that you’re seeing marketing managers face as challenges at the moment, and how you’re seeing that change in the last year.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, look I think if you look over the last few years, the amount of channels and technologies that marketing managers have to use today has grown exponentially. So if you think back 10, 20 years, the main channels for marketers were TV, radio, friends.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, it was very different. And so now, I’d look to the metrics but there’s more than 150 different channels that you can be on today as a marketing manager. So I think one of the big struggles is trying to first manage all of those different channels, and the second piece, I think, is pushing back on your boss and saying, well, yes, no, we don’t need to do all of these channels. I think marketing managers traditionally are very bad at prioritizing and focusing on the key thing they need to do and really delivering on that because you’re trying too many things that you’ll deliver at none.

So a good example would be when we launch a blog in Hubspot. So we’ve just launched our Hubspot Japan blog. People have said how many leads are you generating, how many MQLs are you generating. We actually don’t really care about all that at all. When we launch a blog, all we care about is traffic and blog subscribers, so those two key metrics. So whenever my Japan marketing manager comes to me and asks me questions about like what he should do, it’ll always come back to, “Of the things you could do, which of them will drive traffic and subscribers the greatest?”

So like that thing that you question everything from. I think Facebook have monthly or weekly active users. To us when we’re doing a blog, it’s the number of subscribers so just prioritizing I think is really important for marketing managers today.

Ian Jacob: That was a really good tip. Now if there was on the flip side of that, what is something that people are doing really well like marketing managers are doing great in APAC region?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, good question. So I think marketing managers in APAC are fantastic at e-mail marketing and e-mail nurturing actually. I think they’ve had a lot of time to look at their counterparts in the U.S. and they realize that, okay, e-mail is a big deal. You grow your database, you communicate with them, you move them down the funnel, it’s really important. Where I think that they’re missing out right now, and I’m seeing this start to change since I was part of the launch here, is that they’re realizing that there’s only so much you can do with e-mail marketing and e-mail nurturing, right? It’s not growing your database. In fact, it’s actually cannibalizing, right? Every service you make, you’ll lose people from your subscription.

So I think marketing managers, they’ve done that for a few years now and their databases are getting smaller and they’re having to use pay to top it back up, and they’re starting to realize that they can be a little bit smarter about using blogging and other inbound methods to grow the top of the funnel while they optimize the middle of the funnel for e-mail. So they’re doing e-mail well but I think they could just get a little bit better at the top of the funnel alongside e-mail because they work together.

Craig Bailey: So in terms of ROI, in terms of marketing managers achieving ROI, what are you seeing in Australia in terms of their ability to do that, and whether they’re actually tracking ROI on the right things?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, so I was actually at a Twitter lunch not too long ago and there were some CMOs at this luncheon, some really big companies in Australia. And it was really interesting because we were having a chat about ROI and a couple of the folks that were there are all really senior marketing leaders. We’re talking about the metrics that they share with sales and the business at email open rates. So I think a lot of marketers I think, are very still in those tactical engagement metrics and they’re really important I think for more junior people on the team to be working on optimizing. But I think at an ROI perspective, you’re wanting to be looking at the number of leads that are converting into ops because that tells you about lead quality, you’re wanting to look at the number of MQLs that are being accepted by sales, and then ultimately sales generated revenue through marketing.

So at Hubspot, our sales team only work leads and MQLs that are generated by marketing. There’s no outbound that we do, it’s obviously quite the contrary to inbound. So it makes it makes it really easy for us to measure the impact of marketing because we’re generating all the leads that they’re actually working, and I think that’s a really nice thing about ROI. When you do it in an inbound way, marketing really is steering the ship and there’s a really good alignment between marketing and sales because sales doesn’t do outbound. Marketing is the thing that they need to then close their deals. So yeah, ROI I think at a high level is really important, right? I just think a lot of the time mangers and CMOs get their metrics a little bit misaligned and I think talking about an e-mail open rate with a sales leader is going to create friction as opposed to create alignment.

Craig Bailey: Can I just build on that point because you’ve mentioned marketing managers and CMOs? Now are these different people, and if so, how are they different and in fact what are their KPIs and what they’re tracking in terms of ROI? Are they normally different, do you think?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, sure. Look, I think it depends on the size of the organization. So someone might be called a CMO at a startup of 10 people and they will be effectively doing all forms of marketing. So they’re really, they’re everyone. But I think in the traditional sense, the CMO is the person that’s aligning the vision of the brand, the company, and understanding how the strategy of marketing will work for them and pushing and challenging sales to think about things differently and to be good salespeople. And I think for them reporting is of utmost importance, I think, so being able to understand what their team, if they have a team, what levers that team is pulling and how that’s impacting sales, and that comes back to the metrics we touched on before.

I think if you’re a Marketing Manager supporting a CMO or a marketing director, as a side note the CMO/marketing director are the same thing in Australia. Unless you’re a big enterprise like Comeback, you don’t really have a CMO role in Australia so we view that as the same. But anyway, the team, I guess, supporting that marketing leader, I think for them it’s really important to be able to execute on the goals of the CMO, and a big part of that comes down to using platforms and technologies that are aligned so they don’t lose data between multiple different platforms making sure that the platforms they’re using are actually aligned with the vision of what they’re trying to achieve.

So if that’s a B2C or B2B company, that will change but I think at the end of the day the marketing manager is definitely more of that doing person so for them they’re the person that is feeling, I think, more of the struggles today than, say, that CMO because the CMO is a little bit shielded from technology, they’re a little bit shielded from all the different channels. To them sometimes new channels are a shiny tool to use, and I think that can work sometimes and it’s good to try new things. So right now we actually just launched a campaign on Product Hunt for one of our free tools, and within a week, we’ve generated more than 100,000 leads through Product Hunt and we’re the number 28th most upvoted product on Product Hunt of all time.

Ryan Bonnici: For free. Literally a person on my team just built this campaign out. So leveraging having different channels is important, right? So as a marketing manager, as a leader, you want to be thinking about that but you have to have your house in order before you do those things.

Ian Jacob: Fantastic. That was really good. Okay, so I guess that’s one thing you’ve done really well recently. Now share with us something else you’ve done that’s a bit different to what other people would probably think of that’s worked really well in the last six months.

Ryan Bonnici: Okay, that’s interesting. Maybe I can tell you about something that hasn’t worked well for us.

Ryan Bonnici: Something that’s really challenging for us is that we’ve got this really strong amazing blog that generates I think between three and five million unique visitors a month all through organic means with great content for great sharing on social. But the thing that is really challenging for us as Hubspot in a region that also speaks English is that we don’t necessarily have the lever that the U.S. team has with that blog. We don’t control an A and Z English blog. So you’ll see other vendors they’ll typically do that, they’ll create an A and Z blog.

One of my previous companies used to have one like that and it’s really more like a branding thing. They do it to show the market that they’re there, they’re creating content but at the end of the day the content really isn’t different. How you use Facebook marketing in Australia is not very different to how you Facebook market in the U.S. so people don’t search for how to do Facebook marketing in any certain region. In English speaking countries anyways they don’t.

So that’s kind of interesting because, from an inbound playbook perspective, we’re limited by one of the biggest levers, which is the blog, so for us we’ve had to become really creative at using other channels and a big part of that is using co-marketing partners. So what’s something that we do that we love so we’ll do campaigns with Twitter, with LinkedIn, and with Google. We’ll create content with them together and then we’ll host this content on our landing page. We’ll send an email out to our database, Twitter will send an email out to their database, and then everyone that completes that form has checked the box that says, “I’m happy with both partners sharing leads,” and they’re okay with that because the content’s really good quality. So the threshold for them wanting to give their details is enough that they’re willing.

And to me that’s like a no-brainer for marketers in region, again, once you have your blogging and everything set up, because it’s giving you access to someone else’s database really quickly. So we have a database of hundreds of thousands of people in APAC, Twitter has potentially more than that, maybe millions of people. So they can capitalize on our content, we can capitalize on their database and it’s a nice bit organically grow each other’s offerings. So I think co-marketing is a big area where people can do a lot more and I haven’t seen many companies do it very well, to be honest. Most co-marketing is doing a blog post with someone as opposed to a lead gen offer.

Ian Jacob: Yeah, you’ve done quite a few webinars as well, haven’t you?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah.

Ian Jacob: How has that worked because I know in the U.S. it’s really big. Australia APAC, how has that worked for you guys in generating interest and keeping that conversation happening?

Ryan Bonnici: Look, it’s worked. There’s been I think mixed reviews. We haven’t done a hit report, we’ve probably done about six to eight webinars in the past year and it’s hard to look at a trend between them. The first one we did was with Guy Kawasaki, and that was just soon after I started at Hubspot. I think that did really well partially because we’d never done a webinar at APAC before so to the database and to the audience it was like, “Wow, Guy Kawasaki will be live on a webinar with our time zone.” So that is part of if you can get a high profile person in a local timezone, the timezone really appreciates that because typically they’re used to hearing a recorded webinar. So that did well.

So I think for something like that, we would get several thousand people actually register for it and maybe 1000 or so actually attend the webinar, which is pretty good, I think. And then the great thing about that obviously is you then record the webinar and it’s ever there, it just lives on so if you can keep watching it, you keep generating leads, but then the amount of effort to go into a webinar is quite a lot of coordination in creating the content. And we did a similar kind of webinar with Twitter that worked really, really well about how to tweet smarter and how to leverage Twitter lead gen cards and then drive people to your website, and how you can use the Hubspot CMS platform to show them relevant content then move them into your database, into your funnel and sell to them.

So that’s beautiful alignment because Twitter do something that we don’t do and we can connect really beautifully with their vision and vice versa, so those kind of webinars work. I think this year I don’t think we’ll necessarily do more webinars, to be honest. I think we want to focus more on creating good, really interesting and interactive content as well. So things like our website grader that are a tool that a marketer can use or any buyer or person can use that generates a lead for you through the process of using the tool I think is an interesting kind of play.

Ian Jacob: Yes. I’ve used website grader now for two potential customers and just showed that to them and they were blown away and said, “Well, why didn’t you show this to me before?”

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, so it’s a great tool and exactly because it’s helping them and all they need to do to do it is enter their website and their e-mail.

Interviewer 2: So many good points there. I know we’re out of time but there’s a few that Ryan Bonnici said that I just wanted to pick up on some but the co-partnering one was just excellent. We should have a whole episode on co-partnering. We’d love to come back and chat to you about that. I think that’s a pretty good topic because a lot of marketing managers don’t use that so that’s a fantastic point. But I wanted to quickly move on to sales and marketing alignment if that’s okay.

Ryan Bonnici: Sure.

Ian Jacob: Because it’s a new topic in Australia although I know in the U.S. they’ve really been putting a lot of focus on it. And I guess what we’re interested in knowing and so for a marketing manager listening to this, how important do you think sales marketing alignment is, or actually what is it? You actually touched on it at the start of the interview but how do you see that? How would you explain?

Ryan Bonnici: From a B2B marketing and sales line perspective, it’s crucial because marketing is nothing without sales and vice versa so I think it’s really important. So the way we think about it is at the beginning of every year, we look at the number of quota carrying sales reps that we have in region. Sydney, Singapore, Japan they’re growing really quickly so every year it’s like doubling, which poses fun challenges for marketing because it means we have to keep doubling our lead flow and number of MQLs.

So we go back from that so we start to look at, okay, the number of sales reps and what the quota will be for the sales manager for each month. We then will look at our average sales duration so say from when someone becomes an opportunity in sales force to becoming a closed customer. That for us is, I’m not sure of the exact number, let’s say two months, for example. So we would then backdate all of the MQLs that we need to get for that month. We’ll have to arrive two months earlier, right because you need to give the sales reps two months to work them to then close them in the month when the quota is due. So we’re just very thoughtful, I think, about how we build out what we do, very much aligned to making sure that sales hits. I think they can see that very clearly.

And so from there we will work out a number of MQLs that we want to generate per sales rep. Depending on the average sales price, it’ll be different for every company. We go about it that way really and it works, which is really nice so.

Craig Bailey: So it’s very much data driven. You’re basically doing it by the numbers.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, I know. It’s all about the data, I think, and on the flip side it’s also about making sales commit too. So we commit to a number of MQLs or sales than having sales commit to working those MQLs. So I get a report sent to me every week from my team showing me the number of un-worked MQL accounts and it shows me by sales manager and by sales rep. So if I see someone’s not working MQLs, we’ll have a chat with him. If there’s a quality issue then that’s on us to fix, and we have actual quantitative metrics that actually tell us whether the quality is going down or up versus just qualitative from out of the reps’ mouth.

And if that’s the case, we’ll fix it, if it’s not, then it’s a question between us and the sales rep. It’s like, “Okay, you’re not working our MQLs. We’ll pull you off the rotator then for a month until you work those MQLs.” So there’s an agreement between us there because if we’re not working…At the end of the day, I always think about enterprise value so if one sales rep isn’t working those MQLs, another would like to be working them but they can’t because they’re in the other person’s name. So it’s not like a personal thing between us and that one sales rep, it’s more like that one sales rep is slowing the business down from growing and pulling them off the rotator will help.

Ian Jacob: So now we’ve talked about numbers. Now having hung out with you guys at inbound, understanding you seem to have a close relationship and people know each other, which I think is sometimes foreign in businesses that we deal with. What has been the success to having that? Is it because you guys sit next to each other, you have lunches with each other, what is it?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, I think Hubspot is just very fanatical about hiring. So when I joined Hubspot, they flew me out to Boston from Australia. I did 20 interviews over 2 days. I was only in Boston for only 48 hours. So very intense interviewing is one part of it, and I think the other thing is we only really hire people that we would want to work with and we would find interesting. And that’s not to say we’re homogeneously all the same, we’re all very different but we definitely look for certain qualities in people so we look for people that are innately curious because if you’re innately curious you’re always questioning things and wanting to learn more and you’re interested.

We look for people that are digital natives so we’re probably not going to hire you if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account because if you’re not practicing certain inbound marketing methods, then how will you be able to do that. And then we just look for like we obviously have our HEART methodology, which is all about being humble, being effective, being adaptable, being remarkable, and being transparent. We want people that are effective at their job so they can do it, and if not can to do it right now, they’ve got the potential to get there. For example, if we’re hiring someone straight out of uni, we want them to be really adaptable because in a fast growing business, every year your KPIs and your focus on what you’re working on changes.

And then I really love the thing that we look for is remarkability so everyone has to be remarkable in some way. And that’s not to say they all need to be type A people that are exhibitionists or extroverts, but they just need to have something that they’re really passionate about because when you start to talk to them about their passion, regardless of whether you feel the same passion, it’s just easier to connect with those kinds of people. So everyone on my team, every one across the board also has something that they’re passionate about and unique about. To some people it’s brewing beer, for some people it’s kite surfing, I think, for some people it’s having dogs in the office, it just all differs.

And the last bit is transparency so as an organization across the board we are just crazily transparent. We see all of the numbers. Every employee from [inaudible 00:18:43], all that sort of stuff so everyone understands the health of the business and everyone understands the part they play in making the business continue to be healthy, so that’s pretty fun. So I think when you look for people with those kinds of values and hire hard and long, it took me 10 months for me to hire someone onto my team for one role. I did 150 interviews. I wasn’t going to settle so I think we just have that mentality. It’s like I prefer to do more work and not settle and hire an amazing person.

HubShots Episode 21